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Summer BBQ Safety in Florida

It's officially summertime, which means it's time to fire up the grill (if you haven't already)! There's nothing quite like the smoky, savory flavor of burgers, chicken, and veggies when they're cooked outdoors. And the mouthwatering smell of a barbecue is impossible to resist. Indeed, grilling your food can make your next gathering keenly satisfying and enjoyable.

At Windward Insurance Agency, we are in the business of helping Floridians protect their homes and property from common hazards, including accidental grilling fires. June and July are peak months for these types of fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and, on average, about 10,000 home fires start this way each year – the vast majority by gas grills.

We offer the following BBQ safety tips so you can enjoy your next cookout while minimizing fire risks and maintaining a safe, healthy, and enjoyable environment for everyone involved.

Grilling Safety Tips

Whether you're using charcoal, or gas, two things are guaranteed to be present when you're grilling: high heat and open flames. This greatly increases your risk of fire and accidents. In general, to be safe when grilling, you'll want to avoid anything combustible coming into contact with a lit grill.

Here are some specific and practical grilling safety tips you can use:

Proper Location is Key

Position the grill a safe distance (at least 10 feet) away from any structures, overhangs, trees, umbrellas, and any flammable materials. Make sure the grill is on a stable, level surface so it is less likely to tip over. Choose a well-ventilated outdoor area. NEVER grill indoors or in your garage. Gas and charcoal grills emit a colorless and odorless gas, carbon dioxide. When it accumulates in an area, it can quickly kill you, your loved ones, and your pets.

Even grilling on balconies is a big no-no. Florida law prevents grilling on or under condo or apartment balconies. Grills can't be stored on those balconies, either.

Use Fire Safety Equipment

Keep a fire extinguisher, baking soda, or a bucket of sand nearby to put out any unexpected fires. Never use water on a grease fire because it can cause the fire to spread. Fires can move incredibly fast, so be sure to place these items close by, within a step or two of you, should you need it.

Assess Grill Condition

Good BBQ safety dictates you assess your grill’s condition before you use it. Open the grill and inspect it for cleanliness, built-up grease, or any other surprises.

For charcoal grills, look for holes through which hot coals might escape and catch other items on fire.

With a propane grill, check for gas leaks where the hose connects to the propane tank and where it connects to the grill burners. Visually inspect the hose for cracks. Then, brush a solution of water with a little bit of dish soap along the length of the hose and around the connection points. When the gas is turned on, if new bubbles begin to form, it indicates a gas leak. Turn off the gas, tighten any loose connections and re-inspect the hose, then repeat the test. If bubbles continue to form, turn off the gas and don't use the grill until it is repaired or replaced.  

Pay Attention While Grilling

Never leave a lit grill unattended. Keep an eye out for rambunctious kids, pets, and inebriated adults who may wander a little too close to the grill. Don't crowd food inside the grill, especially fatty meats, as the excess grease can cause unpredictable flare-ups.

Appropriate Clothing & Tools

Avoid wearing loose clothing (it might easily catch fire) or metal watches or jewelry (it could heat up and burn your skin). Use heat-resistant gloves or oven mitts when handling hot grill utensils or adjusting the grill's components. Long-handled utensils are essential to good BBQ safety when you're working the grill.

How to Light and Put Out a Grill

How safely do you grill? Quiz yourself in this video from the National Fire Protection Association

Igniting the Grill

There are three important steps to take before igniting a gas grill:

1. Open the lid

2. Turn on the propane tank

3. Turn on the burner knobs

4. Push the ignite button

If the ignition button fails, wait 5 minutes for any gas in the air to dissipate before using manual ignition methods. Never ignite the grill with the lid closed – this could cause a buildup of gas to form and a fireball may occur upon ignition.

For a charcoal grill, use a charcoal starter instead of lighter fluid. The lighter fluid adds a chemical taste to your food and can create dangerously large flare-ups. Never add lighter fluid to an already lit grill.

Shutting It Down

To turn off a gas grill, turn off propane tank first, then the grill burners. This prevents excess (unburned) gas from circulating in the air. Allow the grill to cool completely before attempting to move or clean it.

For charcoal grills, make sure the ashes are cool before disposing of them in a metal container with a lid. Charcoal can take a long time to cool; 48 hours is recommended.

Store grills outdoors, away from your home. Store propane tanks upright and away from your home and garage.

Grill Cleaning Tips

Regularly cleaning and inspecting your grill helps prevent the buildup of grease and other material. Always clean the grill after each use. Once the grill is completely cool and it's safe to clean, remove excess food and grease from the grill's interior. Improper cleaning – leaving old grease and food on the grill – is often the culprit when it comes to grilling flare-ups the next time you light it up.

Be Smart & Enjoy Outdoor Grilling This Summer

To avoid the risk of injuries and property damage from a grilling fire, it is imperative you practice good BBQ safety whenever you grill.

For more information about protecting your family and home with our full complement of products, contact The Windward Insurance Agency. We can help you find the right insurance coverage for you and your loved ones. Get an online quote now or call us at (866) 231-2433 for assistance.