Grill safely this summer

Plenty of people can be found working their grilling magic year-round. But the vast majority of people do the bulk of their grilling over the summer, when warm temperatures contribute to a relaxed atmosphere that makes outdoor cooking and dining that much more appealing.

The relaxing nature of summer can make it easy to overlook safety, particularly when grilling. However, the right safety measures when cooking over an open flame can prevent home fires and other accidents that can cause injury and even death. In recognition of the many things that can go wrong when grilling, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Fire Administration offer these simple fire safety tips that every grillmaster can keep in mind as summer grilling season hits full swing.

• Only use a grill outside. Grills should never be used indoors and that includes in garages with the doors open. Before lighting a flame, make sure the grill is at least three feet from siding, deck rails and eaves.

• Establish a safe zone around the grill. A three-foot safe zone around the grill can decrease the likelihood that pets will run into and potentially tip over the grill. Kids can be taught to respect this zone as well so they avoid being burned.

• Open a gas grill before lighting it. Charcoal grills, hybrid grills, and smokers cannot be lit unless the lid is lifted. That isn’t the case with gas grills, but gas grills should never be lit with the lid closed. If a gas grill is lit with its lid closed, gas can build up inside and that could cause an explosion. Even if there’s some summer rain falling, open the lid on a gas grill before turning the ignition switch.

• Keep an eye on the grill at all times. It’s tempting to walk away from a grill while food is cooking, but someone should always be tasked with staying close to the grill. If cooks must walk away, ask another adult to stay close to the grill until you return. All it takes is a few seconds for a fire to start.

• Clean the grill regularly. Regular cleaning of the grill is both healthy and safe. Cleaning helps to ensure the cooking surface is clean and unlikely to cause food poisoning. But a grease-free grill also poses less of a fire hazard than one that hasn’t been cleaned.

• Let coals cool before discarding them. Coals from the grill should be given ample time to cool before they’re removed from the grill and discarded.

• Remember to turn the gas valve to the off position after cooking. When cooking with gas grills, cooks must remember to turn the valve to the off position once all the food has been cooked.

Simple safety measures can ensure summer grilling season goes off without a hitch.