Grilling this Memorial Day? State officials fire up some safety tips

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Tech Report:  Smart Grilling

HARRISBURG, Pa.–Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer in Pennsylvania and on Friday Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Richard Flinn stressed the importance of grilling safety.

Of annual grill-related fires in the United States, 57 percent occur from May through August.

“Many Pennsylvania families will be taking advantage of the first long weekend of the unofficial summer season to dust off their grills and have family and friends over to enjoy the warm weather,” Director Flinn said.

Director Flinn and Commissioner Miller demonstrated safe grilling tips with both a propane and charcoal grill in Soldiers’ Grove, adjacent to the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

“Taking time to conduct a few safety checks and practice other safety measures can help insure this fun activity doesn’t end in injury or a home fire,” Flinn said.

Director Flinn listed safety checks consumers should make before using a propane grill for the first time in a season. These include:

  • Checking the gas tank hose for leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles.
  • If your grill has a gas leak, by either smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
  • If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department.

Propane or charcoal grills should only be used outdoors.  When using either type of grill, Director Flinn recommended these safety tips:

  • Keep the grill well away from your home and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Remove grease or fat buildup from the grill and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended, and keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill at all times.
  • Always make sure the lid of a gas grill is open before lighting.
  • If using starter fluid for a charcoal grill, use only charcoal starter fluid, and never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquid to the fire.  Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • If your charcoal grill has an electric starter, use an extension cord.
  • When finished grilling, let the coals cool completely, then dispose in a metal container.

“If you are using a propane grill, and you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill,” Director Flinn said.  “If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least five minutes before re-lighting.”

“These are common sense tips, but when relaxing with family and friends, it can be easy to forget or overlook these safety precautions,” Commissioner Miller said.  “But doing so can result in injury or a fire, which can damage or even destroy your home, and along with it valuable possessions, even irreplaceable family mementos.”

Commissioner Miller also noted filing a homeowners’ insurance claim resulting in a payout by your insurer can result in an increase in your homeowners’ insurance premiums.

Grilling-related fires and injuries are common.  According to the National Fire Protection Association and Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • An average of 8,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbeques occur each year in the United States.
  • In 2014, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms due to injuries involving grills, and 1,600 children under age five suffered thermal burns, caused by touching a hot surface.
  • Grilling-related fires cause about $118 million in property damage each year.

Commissioner Miller advised renters to check with their landlord or review their lease to see whether grilling or other outdoor cooking is permitted.

“By taking a few minutes to conduct safety checks before using your grill, and adhering to these common sense guidelines when grilling, you’ll increase your chances of enjoying family and friends, and not having a good time marred by fire or injury,” Commissioner Miller said.

Safe grilling tips are available at, under the “home” icon, and from the National Fire Protection Association.

SOURCE: Pa. Insurance Department