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Kick the summer off right with these 10 grilling safety tips

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The unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day Weekend, is here! That means it's time to fire up the grill and devour those burgers and kebobs you've been craving all winter. Of course, it's not quite that simple. The National Fire Protection Association reports that approximately 9,600 home fires are caused by grills annually, and on average, more than 19,000 people end up in the emergency room each year with grill-related injuries.

We want to help you stay safe this Memorial Day Weekend and all summer, so here are the top outdoor grilling safety tips! 

#1 – Chose a safe location for your grill 

Keep your grill away from deck railings and the home.

When it comes to grilling, the easiest way to prevent a home fire is to always grill outside. (Never use a charcoal or propane grill inside your home or in a house garage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning). Position the grill at least 10 feet away from a building or deck railings, and never put it under overhanging tree branches.

Also, keep it on a level, stable surface, and once you've started the grill, don't move it until it's fully cooled. That means it should stay put until the gas is off or the charcoal briquettes are completely extinguished, and the grill is cool. 

#2 – Make your grill sparkle (at once every two months) 

Give your grill a thorough cleaning before starting it.

This may be easier said than done. Even before lighting your grill the first time this season, inspect it. Nests, rodent droppings, even spiderwebs can cause a fire (and add unwanted flavors to your food). Then give the grill a thorough cleaning, inside and out.

This includes cleaning all parts of the grill – the grates, heat deflectors, burners, cook box, and cover. And don't forget the outside of the grill. If it's made with stainless steel, make it sparkle with the appropriate cleaner.

Every time you use the grill, clean off the grates while they remain hot. If you use the grill at least once a week, then give it that deep cleaning at least once every two months. 

#3 – Check for gas leaks 

​Service and check your grill before use.

Using propane? Check the line for signs of cracks, punctures, and damage. Then, spread a soapy water solution along the hose and turn on the gas. If bubbles form along the line or by the cylinder valve and outlet connection, there is a leak along the line. The smell of gas near the grill and burners that won't light, also indicate a gas leak. 

If you have a leak, turn off the valve on the tank, evacuate the building, and get at least 350 feet away. Do not use any electronics, including your cell phone, until you and your family are safe. Then call 9-1-1.

#4 – Create a grill safety zone 

Three feet for safe grilling techniques!

One of the most overlooked summer BBQ safety tips is to create a perimeter of at least three feet around your hot grill. No children or pets should enter this area and keep it free of fire hazards, including oven mitts, loose clothing, and even apron strings. As a precaution, it's good to have an escape plan ready – just in case.

#5 – Take extra care when lighting the grill 

Know how to light your particular grill.

Charcoal starter fluids should only be used to start charcoal grills (it's important to point that out), and it needs to soak into the coals for about a half an hour. Never add it to the coals once they have been lit. Also, if your coals are pre-treated, don't add fluid. Once the coals turn a grayish-white, you can start grilling.

When using a propane grill, don't automatically relight the burner if it goes out. Instead, turn off the gas and wait at least five minutes. This will allow the gas time to dissipate. 

#6 – Know how to put out a grill fire  

A few items in your cabinet can put out a grill fire.

Keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand nearby to put out any grill fires. Baking soda can also be used on small grill flare ups. Never pour water on a grease fire as this will only make it worse. However, a garden hose can be used to douse burning embers if they spill from a charcoal grill.

If you're using a gas grill, then prevent the spread of a fire by turning off the tank, shutting the grill's hood, and waiting for the fire to die out. 

#7 – Grill safely 

Use clean utensils when picking up cooked food.

That may sound easy enough, but this is super important. If you use a grill brush to clean the grates before grilling, then you need to make certain that none of the wire bristles fall off the brush and get into your food. We recommend using a bristle-free brush and scraper, and this one by Grill Rescue uses steam to clean your grill.

Also, watch out for the raw meat juices, even in marinades and sauces, which can spread diseases. Once your food is done, remove it from the grill with clean utensils and plates. However, make sure your food is fully cooked by using a food thermometer to check that the meat has reached a safe cooking temperature. The CDC provides guidelines for safely grilling. Finally, never leave a grill unattended. 

#8 – Extinguish your grill correctly

Be safe after grilling.

When using a charcoal grill, close the vents and lower the lid when finished to starve the fire of oxygen and allow the charcoal to go out naturally. Coals can be disposed of (ideally in a metal container) after 48 hours. Do not pour water onto hot coals. You may be burned by the hot steam, and the cold water can damage the grill. With a gas grill, make sure all burners are fully off, and close the valve on the propane tank or turn off the gas supply.

#9 – Store the grill safely 

Save your grill from the elements.

How you store your grill is as important as how you use it. For a gas grill, use a rip-proof, water- and UV-resistant cover, which will help prolong the life of the grill. Store it in a cool, dry place, and if it's outside, you can keep the propane tank connected as long as the grill doesn't receive direct sunlight. If your grill is headed indoors, disconnect the propane tank and leave it outside, out of direct sunlight.

#10 – Don't forget to check your grill for recalls  

Keep your grill serviced.

It's been a long winter, and your grill might have been recalled. While homeowners insurance generally covers grill-related items – replacing decks and siding destroyed by fire or even an explosion – a faulty grill is the responsibility of the manufacturer. However, you must make sure to replace the parts and get the grill serviced to address the recall issue. No one wants to submit a claim for a home fire, and no one wants a friend or loved one hurt from a grill malfunction.

Enjoy your summer with vipHomeLink.

The summer is just beginning! Stay safe now and throughout the season with the help of vipHomeLink. Our home management app provides you with personalized reminders for home maintenance (like spring HVAC tasks) and tailored recommendations (like which renovations to skip when selling). We also help you keep track of all your home's information – like your grill's manual – so you can relax and enjoy all summer has to offer.

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