May is National Barbecue Month, just in time for Memorial Day celebrations across backyards in the Commonwealth while we continue to stay home during the COVID-19 crisis. It's an especially good time to avoid the emergency room, so let's remember to grill safely!
You probably have a solid knowledge of basic safety practices if you’re the designated family griller. As most of us know, it’s important to keep kids and pets away from the old barbie and only to use it outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. But when you've been insuring Virginia homes since 1896, you can imagine we've seen our share of grilling catastrophes. Here are three lesser-known dangers and how to thwart them!
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. Sounds extreme, but according to the National Fire Prevention Association, there were over 16,600 injuries from gas grill fires in 2014, most from leaking propane. This is often due to the common mistake grillers make 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 you try again.
But there's another not-so-commonly known cause of explosive grill fires: a slow gas buildup from damaged or loose propane hoses. This leaky danger can sneak up on the most careful homeowner. It’s a good idea to replace your hoses every couple of years as well as check and tighten all the connectors routinely. Here’s how to check for problems:
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 2002-2014 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 the food that’s being grilled, resulting in mouth, throat, and even abdominal injuries.
To prevent this, never scrimp on the quality of grilling tools you buy and pay attention to the wear of your brush. Know when to say goodbye or better yet- just replace your grill brush once a year. I went out and took a picture of mine just for this post and as you can see…guilty as charged! I had no idea mine was in such bad shape. Here's the warning I noticed on my 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 the NFPA reports an average 8,900 home grill fires every year. The two leading reasons? Grills left unattended or placed too close to something flammable. We certainly see our share of scary home claims for this very reason. And as you can see from one of our claims, they don't have to catch on fire to cause costly damage.
We agree with the Consumer Product Safety Commission who 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.
We've Got You Covered
The good news is that you are protected against accidental grilling mishaps under your NNINS homeowners or renters policy. It covers damage to your home and other insured items like patio furniture, sheds, and decks. That’s why it’s essential to 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. Your policy may also cover 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 this Memorial Day! Why not keep a fire extinguisher close at hand? Class B, ABC, or K fire extinguishers work well for grease fires. That's extra peace of mind along with our tips to avoid a grilling mishap. We hope your family has a Virginia hometown holiday that’s safe and sound.