Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer for many New Yorkers, and with it, the start of the grilling season. As New Yorkers get ready to fire up their grills this Memorial Day weekend, the New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) reminds consumers to consider some important safety tips for safe summer barbecues.
“ As we are looking to have fun with family and friends, it is important to keep in mind some safety tips that can make our summer activities more enjoyable,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “This Memorial Day Weekend marks the beginning of the summer and there is nothing better than to cook for visitors and relatives to mark the occasion so let’s be proactive and careful by following the tips that will make our gatherings memorable and full of great food and a lot of fun just about all summer long.”
According to statistics from Fire Departments around the United States, there are about 10,600 home grill fires reported annually included around 4,900 fires per year in or on structures. Besides, about 100 deaths due to grill fire injuries are reported and about $135 million in direct property damage per year. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency’s US Fire Administration statistics also reflect that almost half of home grill fires happen between 5-8 p.m. and the majority of home grill fires happen between May and August, the summer months when grills are used more often. Furthermore, 79% of all grill fires are from gas grills
Tips for Using Your Grill Safely:
Before lighting the grill do a safety check.
- Have a fire extinguisher nearby and easily accessible in case of a fire.
- Inspect the hoses on a gas grill for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing and that all connections are secure. Replace if necessary.
- Check for propane gas leaks. Open the gas supply valve fully and apply a soapy solution with a brush at the connection point. If bubbles appear, there is a leak. Try tightening the tank connection. If that does not stop the leak, close the gas valve and have the grill repaired by a qualified professional.
- Make sure the grill is clean. Regularly cleaning the grill, as described in the owner’s manual, and cleaning the grease trap, will reduce the risk of flare-ups and grease fires.
- Make sure the grill is stable and on a level, flat surface. Be sure it doesn’t rock or tip when you open and close the lid. If your grill isn’t set on concrete or pavers, consider investing in a grill mat.
- Always start a gas grill with the lid open. Keeping the lip open while starting the grill allows excess gas to escape. If the lid is closed, the gas can pool under the lid and, when opened, combust suddenly creating a fireball.
- Light charcoal in a charcoal chimney. A charcoal chimney is a safer way of starting a charcoal grill since it doesn’t involve the use of accelerants like lighter fluid.
- Only use grills outside in a well-ventilated area. Never use a grill indoors, in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, next to your home or under a surface that will burn.
Gas and charcoal grills present a risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning that could result in injury or death. Of the thousands of grill-related injuries reported in hospital emergency departments each year, many are related to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Pay close attention once the grill is lit.
- Never leave a grill unattended. If a flare-up occurs, turn off the gas or spread out the coals to lower the temperature.
- Watch for grease fires. If a grease fire occurs, turn off the gas and use baking soda and/or a fire extinguisher to put out the fire.
- Keep children away from the grill area. The outside surface of a grill can get hot and cause severe burns.
Store your grill and fuel tanks safely.
- Leave charcoal grills outside. Since charcoal produces CO fumes until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store a grill indoors with freshly used coals.
- Use caution when storing liquid propane (LP) gas containers. Always keep containers upright. Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill. Never store a full container indoors.
- Transport LP gas containers carefully. Consumers should transport the container in a secure, upright position, and never keep a filled container in a hot car or trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase, causing the relief valve to open which will allow gas to escape.
Keep food safety in mind.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator — never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. If you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade.
- Meat must be cooked to the proper temperature. Germs, such as E. coli and salmonella, can be present in undercooked meats, such as hamburger and chicken. Always check the temperature with a meat thermometer.
- Don’t reuse platters or utensils. Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food to spread to the cooked food. Instead, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.
- Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Keep meat, poultry, seafood, salads, and other cold foods refrigerated until they’re about to be cooked or served. If grilled food is finished cooking but won’t be served right away, keep it hot until served. To prevent bacteria growth, cold food should be kept at 40 °F or below, and hot food should be kept at 140 °F or higher.
- Refrigerate any leftovers immediately! Never leave food at room temperature for more than two hours, or only one hour if the temperature is above 90 °F.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.