Summer means long days, balmy weather and time to barbecue. According to
the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2011 there were nearly
17,000 emergency room visits related to grilling accidents.
Pulse recently spoke with
Vimal Murthy, MD, director of the Torrance Memorial Burn Center, regarding barbecue safety
and how to prevent burns and fires when cooking outdoors.
Keep a fire extinguisher in your home and know where it is at all times.
Have it handy when you are grilling, advises Dr. Murthy. An ABC type of
extinguisher is the best, as it will extinguish three types of fires—indicated
by the letters. A is for ordinary combustibles; B is for flammable liquids;
and C is for electrical equipment-based fires. Read the directions in
advance so you know how to use it prior to an emergency.
Electrical Cords and Outlets
Remain vigilant regarding electrical outlets on or near your patio or in
the area where you are grilling, says Dr. Murthy. Cords not only create
clutter to trip and fall over, they also can cause a fire if liquid drips
onto a cord that is plugged into an outlet. This can cause sparks and
is especially dangerous when using a gas grill. Be certain to keep any
live cords away from the area where you are barbecuing.
Blockage and Leaks with Gas Grills
Check your gas grill for blockages and leaks prior to use, stresses Dr.
Murthy. Blockages tend to be the #1 cause of fires with gas grills. Grill
hoses and knobs can become obstructed from insects, webs, nests and small
animals. Hoses and connection sites can leak gas. If a spark or a flame
comes in contact with leaking gas, it can cause a fire. Don’t forget
to check behind and underneath your grill too.
Lighter fluid can be very combustible. When using a charcoal grill, follow
the package directions on the lighter fluid and the charcoal briquettes
you’re using. Dr. Murthy states that injuries have occurred with
adolescents who took part in a dangerous game of playing with lighter
fluid to create flame trails.
Keep your grill clean and free of grease, which can be a source of ignition
for both gas and charcoal grills.
Stop, Drop and Roll
If you or someone with you catches on fire, remember to stop, drop and
roll. This helps put out the flames, says Dr. Murthy. Having cold water
on hand is an additional safeguard to douse out flaming clothes and burning skin.
Fire pits are a source of lower extremity burns for children. This generally
occurs when adults cover the fire pit with sand only. Sand conducts heat,
so the heat persists under the sand. “The flames must be extinguished
first with water to put out the fire,” states Dr. Murthy. After
that, sand can be used to cover the fire pit.
“Most people do it right,” he adds. Following these steps will
help increase your level of safety and reduce your risk of injury while
For more information on safety while grilling, visit the National Fire
Protection Agency at nfpa.org or the American Burn Association at