3 Grilling Dangers That May Surprise You

By Nancy B
April 30, 2023

We pledge to provide straight talk from our NNINS Virginia insurance experts. Read the Northern Neck Insurance INTEGRITY PROMISE.

It's officially grilling season! May is National Barbecue Month, just in time for Memorial Day celebrations, graduation parties, and Father's Day across the backyards of the Commonwealth. And it's an especially good time to avoid the emergency room. So let's grill safely!

Safe grilling tips from insurance experts

You probably have a solid knowledge of basic safety practices if you’re the designated family griller. As most know, keeping kids and pets away from the grill and using it outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning is important. But you'd be surprised what can happen! We've seen our share of grilling catastrophes insuring Virginia homes since 1896. According to FEMA, grill fires on residential properties result in about 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and $37 million in yearly property loss. There are also a few lesser-known grilling dangers. We'll share tips to thwart them and protect your home from fire and heat damage. 

The "Ticking Time Bomb"

Picture this: you bend over to light your grill like a thousand times before and – BOOM! – there’s a sudden burst of flames engulfing the front of your body. It sounds extreme, but according to the National Fire Prevention Association, an average of 19,700 patients per year went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills between 2014 and 2018. This is often due to the common mistake of turning the propane on and lighting the grill with the lid shut, allowing a dangerous buildup of flammable gas.

Always open the lid before you light the grill, and don’t just keep hitting that igniter switch if it doesn’t light the first time. Turn the gas off and wait 5 minutes with the grill lid open before trying again.



But another less-common cause of explosive grill fires is a slow gas buildup from damaged or loose propane hoses. This leaky danger can sneak up on even the most careful homeowner. It’s good to replace your hoses annually and routinely check and tighten all the connectors. 

How to Check Your Grill for Gas Leaks 

This video outlines how to check your grill for gas leaks. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!



The "Expired Grill Tool"

When was the last time you replaced your grill cleaning brush? You may be shocked to know that over 1,600 reported visits to the emergency room from 2002 to 2014 were due to stainless steel or brass wire-bristle grill brush injuries. Loose bristles from old overused brushes tend to fall off during grill cleaning and end up in grilled food, resulting in mouth, throat, and even abdominal injuries.

I went out and took a picture of my wire grill brush just for this post, and as you can see,… guilty as charged! I had no idea mine was in such bad shape.


To prevent this, buy a nylon grill brush and never scrimp on the quality of your grilling tools. Know when to say goodbye or replace your grill brush every year. Here's the warning I noticed on a new grill brush:


The "Siding Melter"

Surprisingly, we’ve seen recommendations that say you only need 3 feet between your grill and your house. Perhaps that’s why NFPA reports an average of 10,600 home grill fires yearly. The two leading reasons? Grills left unattended or placed too close to something flammable. We certainly see our share of scary home insurance claims for this very reason. And as you can see from one of our claims, grills don't have to catch fire to cause costly home damage.



We agree with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which recommends using your grill 10 feet or more from any dwelling, including your deck rail, house eaves, and overhanging tree branches. And keep close to your grill when you're cooking. Your food will turn out a lot better as well!

The same rules apply if you like to grill with charcoal, with one crucial caveat. Justin, our home claim expert, reminds us that it’s super important to keep cooling briquettes away from flammables and never dispose of them until they are completely cooled- after about 48 hours- and in a non-flammable container. 


Does home insurance cover grill damage and injury?

The good news is that you can be protected against accidental grilling mishaps under your NNINS homeowners insurance or renters policy. Home insurance can cover damage to your home and other personal property like patio furniture, sheds, and decks. Your homeowners policy can also cover the medical expenses of a guest injured from a grill fire under the liability portion of your home insurance policy.

So, give your grill a good once-over before you fire it up! Why not keep a fire extinguisher close at hand? Class B, ABC, or K fire extinguishers work well for grease fires. Keep your policy up-to-date by letting your independent agent know when you build or purchase something for the exterior of your home and include them in your home inventory. That's extra peace of mind and following our tips to avoid a grilling mishap. We want you and your family to stay safe and sound this summer.



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THE NORTHERN NECK INSURANCE INTEGRITY PROMISE — We pledge to provide straight talk and good counsel from our NNINS Virginia insurance experts through our blog. While we hope you find this to be a helpful source of information, it does not replace the guidance of a licensed insurance professional, nor does it modify the terms of your Northern Neck Insurance policy in any way. All insurance products are governed by the terms in the applicable insurance policy.