Grilling Season Safety Tips for Florida Homeowners

Many people consider the Memorial Day holiday the kick-off to grilling season. In Florida, however, we know better: Grilling is great, any time of year.


No matter when you decide to grill, make sure you’re doing so safely. Your family, friends, and loved ones will thank you for the good time and good food – especially when it doesn’t involve emergency phone calls to the Fire Department or trips to the ER. Are you ready to fire up the grill? Review these grilling safety tips before you get started.


Why You Should Care About Grilling Safety


Grilling comes with a significant risk of fire. Anytime you’re around controlled heat or open flames, safety should be paramount. Fire from a grill can quickly spread to dry vegetation nearby, as well as to wood or other flammable structures in the vicinity – including your home! Serious burns and carbon monoxide poisoning may become potentially deadly outcomes of grilling accidents.


The following are the top reasons homes catch fire from grilling, based on the most recent home grill fires research by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), listed in order of prevalence:


  • Failure to clean the grill
  • Grill too close to combustibles
  • Unattended grill
  • Gas leak or equipment failure


Knowing what can cause a home grill fire should dictate the grilling safety measures you practice each and every time you grill.


Grilling Safety Tip 1: Clean Your Grill Regularly


Old grease left on the grill becomes fuel – and can reignite on future use. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons for grill-based home fires.


Clean the grill grates and around/under the burners, where grease and bits of food tend to accumulate after grilling. Don’t forget the grease trap – aka grease drip cup – typically located at the bottom of the grill, under the grease tray. You’ll also want to remove any dust, debris, or cobwebs in the grill – basically, anything potentially combustible.


Here are four hacks to help you clean the old grease off your grill:

If you have a significant amount of grease to dispose of, let it cool and solidify, place it in a disposable container (such as an old milk carton), then throw it in an outside trash can.


When using a charcoal grill, make sure you safely dispose of used coals and ash. Wait at least 24 hours before tossing the used coals and ash into a metal container with a lid and disposing of it in an outside trash can. Letting coals cool overnight may not be long enough.


Grilling Safety Tip 2: Look for Leaks, Other Problems Before Grilling


Before using the grill, give it a thorough assessment to make sure it’s safe to use and functioning properly. Do this each and every time you’re about to grill. Look for rusty areas, which may give way under the heat of grilling, dropping hot coals or burning food/grease onto the ground and potentially starting a fire. Also look for clogged burner holes and blocked air vents, which can restrict your ability to control the temperature of the grill and can create excess smoke.


Most important, on gas grills, is to check for a gas leak. This could cause propane or natural gas to build up inside the grill when the lid is closed – resulting in a fireball once the lid is lifted and oxygen fuels the gas collected there. To look for a gas leak, turn the gas on, but leave the burners off and don’t light or otherwise turn on the grill. Then apply a soapy water solution to the gas valve, hose, and regulator – and look for bubbles, indicating where gas is escaping. If you see bubbles, shut off the gas immediately and don’t use the grill until the leak is repaired.


Grilling Safety Tip 3: Always Grill Outside


A gas or charcoal grill should only be used outside, in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to place the grill at least 10 feet away from your home or anything potentially flammable (e.g., shed, wood fence). Never use a grill inside the home, in the garage, on an apartment balcony, under tree branches, deck railings, or anything with the potential to catch fire.


When you’re setting up your grill, make sure it’s on a flat, level, and stable surface. Rather than placing it directly on grass in your yard, for example, use a wood platform, or one made of concrete, bricks, or pavers – as long as its surface is smooth and not wobbly.


Don’t grill near open windows or doorways because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This odorless, colorless gas can enter the home and collect in life-threatening quantities. This is why having carbon monoxide detectors, as well as smoke detectors, throughout the home is such a good idea.


Grilling Safety Tip 4: Know How You’ll Put Out a Fire


Have a fire safety plan for every time you grill.


Do you have a fire extinguisher you can keep near where you’ll be grilling? Is it still full & functional? When’s the last time you checked its pressure gauge? ABC fire extinguishers are considered all-purpose – capable of handling ordinary combustibles like wood, paper, and cloth (Class A), flammable liquids like grease fires (Class B), and electrical fires (Class C). These extinguishers are available at most retail chains or home improvement stores and are ideal for grilling safety.


If you’re going to use a fire extinguisher, a 5-pounder may be easier to handle than a heavier one. To properly use your fire extinguisher, remember the PASS acronym:


  • Pull the pin
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the handle
  • Sweep it from side to side


Whatever you do, don’t rely on water for fire safety when you’re grilling. If grease on the grill ignites, splashing water on it may simply push the fiery oil droplets elsewhere, spreading the fire beyond the grill.


Instead, consider keeping a bucket of sand and a carton of baking soda nearby. Neither will be as messy as using a fire extinguisher, and both can effectively smother flames, preventing oxygen from further fueling the fire. Baking soda is best suited for smaller grill fires and the sand for larger ones. 


If you have a gas grill, be familiar with how to turn off the gas supply in an emergency. In addition to smothering the flames, you’ll need to shut off the gas or close the grill vents to prevent reignition.


Grilling Safety Tip 5: Pay Attention, Especially When Kids & Pets Are Present


Never leave your grill unattended while it’s in use. In addition, draw a 3-foot circle around the grill and designate it as a no-kids and no-pets zone. Use chalk or tape or whatever works for the area you’re in. Rambunctious children, inebriated adults, or dogs with the zoomies could easily knock over the grill or bump into you while at the grill, and inadvertently start a fire.


If children are around while you’re grilling, make sure they’re supervised by an adult and kept away from the grill. Pets should remain indoors or in a confined outdoor area while grilling. 


Grilling Safety Protects Your Home & Family


Get out there and enjoy your outdoor adventures to the fullest this summer. And if you’re planning on grilling, be sure to take grilling safety seriously. When you’re prepared for all possible outcomes – such as a grill fire turning into a house fire – then nothing can take you by surprise. And this is precisely what you want when you’re in charge of protecting your family, home, and everything in it.


At Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, we’re in the business of making sure you and yours are covered for worst-case scenario events like a home fire beginning at the grill. Make sure your homeowners insurance is up-to-date and your coverage limits still work for you by contacting your Florida Peninsula agent today.


Not yet insured with Florida Peninsula? No problem – find out how easy it can be by getting a quote online right now.

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