Posted by: Mickey Goodman | June 29, 2012

Keep Fun in Your Fourth

Note from Travelgram: If you’re heading out of town for the Fourth, — drive or fly safely, watch your kids every MINUTE they are near water and have a blast!

If a “staycation” is in your immediate future, make sure the simple act of grilling doesn’t end in catastrophe.

Don’t let a barbecuing accident mar your holiday
America’s birthday party on the Fourth of July conjures up thoughts of a steaming hot summer day spent with family and friends, enjoying sizzling hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill and watching a fire works spectacle after dark. But all these lovely holiday rituals can be irreparably marred by a grilling accident, particularly one that causes an explosion.

Flare ups happen quickly. Be prepared.

“There are 3-million meals cooked on grills every year, resulting in 7,000 fires,” says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director of Underwriters Laboratories (, an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization. “Temperatures can reach 1,000 degrees.”

Some are accidents are minor, treated with cold water or aloe ointment. Others, like the April explosion that put six-year old Eliceo Lopez-Soto from Loha, Ore., in the hospital, are extremely serious. The young boy sustained severe burns on his face and hands, as well as inhalation problems.

His mother certainly never anticipated the consequences when she mistakenly grabbed a can of model engine fuel instead of charcoal lighter to ignite the coals in the family’s grill. The ensuing explosion that also injured his father was so intense that debris was blown up onto the roof of the house. (

But heeding safety rules and having fun are not mutually exclusive. Accidents can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines,” advises Drengenberg.

Most varieties of charcoal are safe as long as families follow the manufacturer’s recommendations like placing the briquettes in a cone shape and using only genuine charcoal lighter fluid. “Never add any flammable liquid to burning coals or use gasoline or kerosene to start the charcoal,” he says. “The unintended result can be catastrophic.”

Correct disposal is also imperative. Once the meal is finished and there is no more need for the heated charcoals, don’t dump them in sand or dirt in the corner of the yard. “Far too many kids end up in the emergency room after running through hot charcoal,” says Drengenberg.

Instead, let burned briquettes cool in the grill for at least 48-hours before disposal. If time is not available, pour water over the briquettes to ensure the briquettes have cooled completely.

Take care when removing the ashes from the bottom of the grill by using a small hand held shovel or broom and dustpan. If you’re removing a large amount of ashes, a dust mask may be helpful.

It’s never safe to use grills indoors, even small Hibachis that fit into bathtubs and fireplaces. The issue is not only fire, but toxic carbon monoxide fumes emitted by the charcoal. The same goes for garages that may appear safe since they’re open on one side, but also contain flammable products that can react with the fumes and cause a major fire.

Safety First
• Before using your grill, clear out leaves, cobwebs and other debris that may have accumulated in the bottom.
• When purchasing a new grill, make sure it has the Underwriters Laboratories label that ensures the item has passed 100 percent of rigorous tests and meets all established safety standards.
• A properly designed grill routs the propane correctly so the hoses don’t have to be kinked. Tanks should be under, not near the burner.
• Make sure all the connections are tight by checking for leaking gas in both propane and natural gas grills. The process is simple:
• Put a soapy solution around the connecting junctions. If no bubbles appear, the connections are tight.
• If the solution bubbles, it means gas is leaking and the device is dangerous. Tighten and then re-test the connections before using.
• Don’t store an extra propane tank near the grill. If there is a fire, you don’t want to compound the danger by setting two tanks on fire.
• Keep the extra tank out of the sun, and never put it in the trunk of a car.
• Although it’s impossible to be alert every second, always monitor the grill and keep kids away from the hot surfaces.
• Use mitts and long-handled tongs to avoid burns. Keep hands away from hot surfaces.
• Always keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby to spritz on flare-ups before they get out of hand.
• For added protection, have a fire extinguisher handy.

“Outdoor grilling should be fun, Drengenberg says. “Following common sense rules will ensure that it is also safe.”

What is the UL?
The Underwriters Laboratories were founded in 1894 when William Harry Merrill opened the Underwriters Electrical Bureau (later renamed Underwriters Laboratories) and conducted the first test on combustible insulation. By 1895, he had developed a set of safety standards, and the staff of three issued 75 reports to customers. Four years later, the number of tested products had grown to 1,000 and included lamps, fire alarm boxes, fuses and heaters.

Today, UL, a not-for-profit organization that receives no funding from the government, employs 6,800 professionals who work in 95 laboratories and testing facilities around the globe. More than 19,000 categories and up to 100,000 products are test annually, ranging from Christmas decorations to electrical products to barbecue grills. In 2011, 22.4 billion product earned the UL mark, a label so well respected that most retail establishments refuse to sell products without it.


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