After one of the coldest winters on record things have finally turned around and our thoughts can now turn to summer and all that comes with it: swimming, hiking, boating, and of course grilling. July is not only a great month for grilling; it is also a peak month for grilling fires.

The National Fire Protection Agency states that gas grills accounted for an annual average of 7,200 home fires in 2007-2011, while charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were involved in an annual average of 1,400 home fires.

Let me throw out some additional facts and figures:

  • In 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 8,800 home and outside fires. These 8,800 fires caused an annual average of 10 civilian deaths, 140 civilian injuries and $96 million in direct property damage.
  • More than one-quarter (27%) of the home structure fires involving grills started on a courtyard, terrace or patio, 29% started on an exterior balcony or open porch, and 6% started in the kitchen.
  • In almost half (43%) of the home outdoor fires in which grills were involved, half (51%) of the outside gas grills, and 29% of gas grill structure fires, the fire started when a flammable or combustible gas or liquid caught fire.

Source: NFPA’s “Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment,” by Marty Ahrens, November 2013.

Sausage on grillGrilling is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s important to take the proper precautions. Follow these general safety tips as you venture outside to fire-up the grill:

  1. Read the owner’s manual of the grill and follow the specific usage, assembly, and safety procedures.
  2. Grills should not be used on balconies.
  3. Grills should not be used within 20 feet of a building, deck, building eave, or overhead tree branches.
  4. Keep guests and pets at least three feet away from your grilling area.
  5. Keep the grill clean by removing grease and fat build-up.
  6. Never leave the grill unattended.
  7. Use the grill on a level, stable surface to avoid tipping over.
  8. Use the grill outdoors in a well-ventilated area.
  9. Don’t move the grill once it is hot.
  10. Have a fire extinguisher ready nearby.

So there you have it, ten simple tips to make your grilling experience a memorable one for all the right reasons. If you think this is being overly cautious you may want to watch this video.

Grilling is a right of summer to be enjoyed by all. There is nothing like the smell of food cooking on the grill that will unite friends and family in a whirlwind of happiness. Just keep in mind that fire in the grill is good but fire anywhere else can make your whirlwind of happiness turn into a whirlpool of sorrow.

For additional information on safe grilling you can download this FREE Society Insurance risk control handout.

-Pat O’Brien