By: Sharrod Parker, Risk Control Leader
We are well into most people’s favorite time of the year: grilling season! Grilling is great, tasty fun, but we should exercise caution to ensure we avoid any issues or accidents. Therefore, it is a good idea to review some suggestions and tips with your residents.
Always Reference the Property Regulations
Just because your local fire code may have given electric grills and compact gas grills the okay doesn’t mean your apartment complex did. At the end of the day it’s up to property owners to decide if cooking on patios and balconies is allowed. Decisions are typically risk-based, and the architecture of the building can be a factor.
Get an Electric Grill
There are no regulations or laws that say you can’t have an electric grill on your patio or balcony. It won’t have that smoky BBQ taste, but an electric grill can provide a nice char and it’s a healthy cooking option. Electric grills burn almost as hot as gas or charcoal, but are safer, cleaner, and lighter in weight. Also, some electric grills can convert for indoor use, so on those rare rainy days you can still grill out.
Take Advantage of the Community Grills
Some apartment complexes accommodate grill aficionados by providing community charcoal grills. These are usually located in a common area that is a good distance from all buildings. It’s not as convenient as being able to cook right outside of your patio door, but it’s easier than lugging everything down to a local park—and you’ll know that your apartment is safe. Just be mindful that it’s a shared space – clean up after yourself and make sure the charcoals are completely out once you’re done cooking.
Never, Ever Leave the Grill Unattended
This is the cardinal safety rule of grilling. All it takes is one good breeze to blow ashes out of the grill and onto the ground, nearby furniture, etc. It can even be dangerous with an electric grill if it gets knocked over or if there is a mechanical failure. If you must step away for a moment, designate another person to keep an eye on the grill.
Know How to Use Your Equipment
The National Fire Incident Reporting System notes that operational deficiency and misuse together account for 47% of grill fires on average. In other words, there was a human element involved in what went wrong. Before using a grill, make sure you are aware of how it operates and the proper cooking methods.
Below are some safety tips to always follow:
- Plug electric grills into a grounded outlet.
- Keep cords out of pathways so that people don’t trip or knock over the electric grill.
- Never add lighter fluid to any grill after it is already going.
- Always check to make sure the propane tank is properly connected on a gas grill.
- Always make sure the propane is turned off after using a gas grill.
- Clean the grill grates after each use to remove grease and buildup.
- When using a charcoal grill, stack the coals into a pyramid before adding lighter fluid and then wait about a minute before lighting them.
- Use about ¼ cup of lighter fluid per one pound of charcoal.
- Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory and follow all manufacturers’ instructions regarding set up, operation, maintenance and clearance to combustibles.
- Only use open-flame grills outdoors. If used indoors, or in enclosed spaces, they pose both a fire and asphyxiation hazard.
- Position grills well away from siding, deck rails and out from under building eaves and overhanging tree branches.
- Place grills a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
- Keep children away from grill areas: declare a three-foot “safe zone” around the grill.
- Use long-handled grilling utensils to minimize the potential for burns.
- Periodically clean grease and fat build-up in catch pans beneath the grill so a hot grill cannot ignite it. Keep a portable fire extinguisher near the grilling area.