A recent ABC News video shows how the joys of outdoor grilling can go up in smoke in just seconds. Quicker than you can say “make mine a cheeseburger”, fire engulfs a home when flames soar as greasy burgers are flipped. In another scene, the build-up of propane blows the top off a closed grill with just a spark, knocking the hair off a mannequin.
The arrival of summer means that grilling season has begun. It’s a time when communities and families gather around gas and charcoal grills to sear copious amounts of cow, pig and bird. Outdoor grills are a desirable amenity at apartments, and those permanently under cover in wooden structures or near community buildings, as well as portable gas or charcoal grills, can present potentially expensive and deadly exposure to the property and its inhabitants if not used properly.
Grilling outings shouldn’t end tragically. Often, the difference between safe meal preparation on a grate above hot coals or a blue flame is common sense. But accidents do happen, as the video indicates. An unexpected burst of flames can end a cookout tragically.
Resident and staff education is one way to help ensure a safe grilling season at apartments.
Consider having a “grilling workshop” at your property. Pick a Saturday afternoon and invite residents to attend a quick refresher course on safe grilling. Ask a fire department representative to talk about how to have a safe cook-out.
“Every resident needs to take the necessary precautions when grilling during the summer season. 4th of July is prime time for friends and family to have a cookout,” says Ed Wolff, President of LeasingDesk Insurance.
A hot dog cook-out is a great way to say thanks to residents for attending while helping them to learn to use your assets responsibly. And don’t forget to include the meat and buns.
In the meantime, the National Fire Protection Association offers some safe grilling tips that are useful for both residents and staff.
For the Property Team
- Check Connection Points. On gas grills, check the major connection points between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, along with connection points where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose.
- Check the Gas (Propane) Tank Hose for the Potential Gas Leaks. To do that, turn the propane tank on, and apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle. If there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose, which will be big enough to see.
- Turn Off Afterward. Once you’ve determined your grill has a gas leak (either by smell or by administering the soapy bubble test) and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and burners. If the leak stops at that point, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department immediately.
For the Resident
- Keep Grills a Safe Distance From Structures. Each year, more than 8,300 fires are caused by grilling mishaps, sending about 3,000 people to the emergency room, says Underwriters Laboratories. Never grill indoors or near garages, even if it’s raining.
- Never Leave the Grill Unattended. Dripping grease can ignite and send flames shooting upward and send sparks flying.
- Dispose of Charcoal Away from Kids and Pets. White-hot coals can reach up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and start a fire if not disposed of properly. Wait until the coals have completely cooled before disposing of them. Cool them down quicker by spraying with water.
- Keep a Spray Bottle and Fire Extinguisher Nearby. In the event that flames get out of control, be prepared to extinguish them immediately. Just a few squirts from a spray bottle or knowing how to use a fire extinguisher can help handle flare-ups and keep any barbecue mishaps from getting out of hand.
- If You Smell Gas, Move Away. If you smell gas while cooking, move away from the grill immediately and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.