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Barbeque and Fireworks Safety

With warmer weather comes family gatherings and cooking outside on a charcoal or gas grill. Barbequing is a relatively harmless event. However, if safety rules and respect for the dangers of fire are not followed, mishaps can and do occur. Burns, scaldings, soft tissue injuries, abrasions and cuts are just a few of the types of accidents that can occur during grilling.

When cooking outdoors with a gas grill be sure to follow these recommendations from the National Propane Gas Association to ensure proper barbeque safety:
  • Always use the grill outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Always follow all the manufacturer's instructions and keep written materials and manuals in a safe, accessible place
  • Make sure the grill burner controls are turned off and keep the cylinder valve closed when not in use
  • Make sure the gas grill is shut off and completely cooled before covering it after use
  • Always use or store cylinders in an upright, vertical position. Be sure to store them outdoors away from sources of ignition
  • When a cylinder is refilled, have the supplier check for dents, damage, rust or leaks
  • After filling, take the cylinder home immediately. While transporting, keep the vehicle ventilated with the cylinder valve closed and plugged or capped
  • When a grill is not in use, cover disconnected hose-end fittings and burner air intakes with small plastic bags or obtain protective fitting caps from the propane gas retailer to keep out dirt, insects and moisture
  • Before lighting a propane gas grill burner, use a leak-detection solution to check all connections for tightness. Contact a local propane gas retailer to obtain the leak-detection solution and instructions on how to use it
  • If there is a significant and uncontrollable release of gas or fire, call the fire department immediately and move all people and pets away from the unit
These are their recommendations of what NOT to do when grilling outdoors with a propane grill:
  • Do not bring cylinders indoors or into an enclosed space such as a garage
  • Do not smoke while handling the propane cylinder
  • Do not leave the cylinder in a vehicle
  • Do not use matches or lighters to check for leaks
  • Do not allow children to tamper or play with the cylinder or grill
  • Do not use, store or transport a cylinder where it could be exposed to high temperatures
When using a charcoal grill for outdoor barbeques, the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association recommends the following precautions:
  • When using charcoal briquettes or wood chunks, form a pyramid and douse with lighter fluid. Wait until fluid has soaked in before lighting
  • Cap lighter fluid immediately and place a safe distance from grill
  • Never add lighter fluid to coals that are already hot or warm
  • Never use gasoline, kerosene or other highly volatile fluids as a starter. They can explode
  • As an alternative to lighter fluid, use an electric, solid, metal chimney or other starter specifically made for lighting charcoal briquettes or wood chunks
  • Unplug and remove a hot starter with caution and be careful where you put it. Always cool starter completely before storing
  • Never use an electric starter in the rain and/or when standing on wet ground
  • When using instant light briquettes, do not use lighter fluid, electric, solid or metal chimney-style starters. Do not add more instant light briquettes once the fire has been lit. Add only regular charcoal briquettes if more are needed
  • Once the grill is lit, do not touch briquettes or wood chunks to see if they are hot. Keep grill uncovered until ready to cook
  • Keep vents open while cooking. Charcoal briquettes and wood chunks need oxygen to burn
  • Allow coals to burn out completely and let ashes cool at least 48 hours before disposing
  • Dispose of cold ashes by wrapping in heavy-duty aluminum foil and placing in non-combustible container. Be sure no other combustible materials are nearby
  • If you must dispose of ashes before completely cooled, place them in heavy duty foil and soak with water completely before disposing in non-combustible container
CASE STUDY: #1. A 29 year old SSgt was preparing to barbeque with charcoal. He discovered he was out of lighter fluid so improvised by using a partially filled coffee cup of gasoline. He let the gasoline soak in the charcoal for a few moments, and then tossed a match on the charcoal. The ensuing flame burst caused skin burns bad enough the SSgt required skin grafts.

#2. A 21 year old A1C was preparing to barbeque with charcoal. She discovered she was out of lighter fluid so she tried to start the charcoal with newspapers. When this didn't work, she got some gasoline from the garage. She poured gasoline on the charcoal straight from the gas container, when the smoldering charcoals ignited and sent flames up the stream of gas. The A1C dropped the gas container and was on fire herself. She dropped, rolled and put the flames out with assistance. Her burns required skin grafts.

Bottom line: Gasoline is not an appropriate starter for charcoal. Respect the fire and ensure the location of the barbeque grill does not present a hazard to personnel or facilities.

The fourth of July is always a fun time to gather with family and friends to acknowledge the nation's birthday and fireworks are a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday, but they must be used carefully. The National Council on Fireworks Safety urges consumers to be smart before, during and after consumer fireworks displays.

Before:
  • Choose and open area away from spectators, homes, buildings and dry vegetation
  • Use a garden hose to wet down the area before firing
During:
  • As each device burns out, soak it using a hose or a bucket of water
After:
  • Place all used items in a covered, fireproof container and leave it outside away from homes and buildings
For sparklers:
  • Place all used items in a covered, fireproof container and leave it outside away from homes and buildings
  • Children under the age of 12 should not use sparklers without very close adult supervision
  • Always remain standing while using sparklers
  • Never hold a child in your arms while using sparklers
  • Never hold or light more than one sparkler at a time
  • Sparklers and bare feet can be a painful combination. Always wear closed-toe shoes when using sparklers
  • Sparkler wires and sticks remain hot long after the flame has gone out. Be sure to drop the spent sparkler directly in a bucket of water
  • Never hand a lit sparkler to another person
  • Always stand at least 6 feet away from another person when holding a sparkler
Please treat fireworks with respect, read all of the cautions and warnings and use common sense. Lighting fireworks indoors, throwing them from automobiles and lighting multiple devices at the same time can lead to accidents and are not how fireworks are intended to be used. Always obey all local laws pertaining to the use of fireworks.

CASE STUDY: A 21 year old A1C and a group of fellow military members were setting off fireworks. The A1C was holding a "three-ball artillery launcher" firework in his hand while another person lit the fuse. A round detonated inside the launcher causing a severe injury to the A1C's hand which resulted in amputation. The manufacturer's instructions and warning sticker stated not to hold the launcher in your hands. Alcohol was a factor in this mishap.

BOTTOM LINE:
  • If you see someone misusing fireworks, stop them. Show them the correct way to use consumer fireworks and do not ever use professional fireworks or illegal explosives. Do your part and everyone will be safer
  • Fireworks and alcohol do not mix
When all else fails, use common sense. Respect fireworks and sparklers as the great tradition they are, but also respect the fact that they must be used with caution