Grilling safety requires knowledge, focus
June 27, 2013
Residents operating grills during the summer season are expected to exercise safety and follow the post's rules. Doing so will reduce the chance of starting fires, which helps keep Families out of harm's way, according to Chris McCormick, Installation Safety Office acting director.
"It's very important that we use caution when conducting grilling activities," McCormick said. "Residents should be aware of the dangers associated with grilling, which includes potential dangers to their personal property, their Family and their friends."
A big key in safety is to avoid placing the grill in an inappropriate location, McCormick said. Belvoir residents must place grills at least 10 feet away from any structure, trees, bushes, tents, decking, gazebos, cars, dumpsters and any over-hangs from these locations. Residents must also keep grills out of garages and away from children. The distance rules reduce the chance of injuries and property damage created by a flash fire from greasy foods or poorly maintained grills.
Residents seeking to grill outdoors in a park on post must obtain a permit from the Fire Marshall's office or the fire station, if a Marshal is not available.
Another key safety item is reading your grill's instruction manual before operating the device, according to Ronnie Martin, Fort Belvoir assistant fire chief. This precaution enables community members to gain more familiarity and comfort with using their grill.
"Whether your grill lights by match or push button igniter, always follow the manufacturer's instructions," Martin said. "This allows grillers to better maintain safety while cooking."
Martin and McCormick said there are normal operating procedures and precautions involved with using gas and charcoal grills that they strongly encourage residents to follow.
For gas grills, residents should periodically check all hoses and tubes for cracking, brittleness, holes, leaks, spider webs and sharp bends that could block fuel flow.
Martin added residents should check the tightness of these valves by pouring soapy water on the connection points. If bubbles appear, retighten the connections and test again.
McCormick lists the following tips for gas grill safety.
• Light the match first, and then turn the gas on.
• Light the grill immediately. Do not leave the gas on for a while before igniting it.
• When lighting the grill, always crouch below the cooking surface to avoid being injured by a flash burn.
According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, the flames of a gas grill should always burn blue, orange flames indicate an obstruction.
After cooking, propane cylinders should be kept in an upright position and never near areas where temperatures can reach 125 degrees.
Residents should have a dealer or a qualified service station operator refill the propane gas tank.
For charcoal grilling, residents should stack standard briquettes in a pyramid which enables the charcoal to light faster.
Use only starter fluids specified for charcoal grills on the briquettes and follow the instructions on the container. Never apply additional fluid once the fire has been ignited.
Hot coals must be soaked with water and covered with a non-combustible cover until they become cold, after cooking is completed. Residents should discard the coals the day after cooking to reduce the chance of the coal catching on fire, according to Joe Jenkins, Fort Belvoir fire marshall.
For more information on grill safety and regulations on post, call the Fort Belvoir Fire Marshal's Office at (703) 805-2091. For emergencies, call (703) 781-1800.
Jenkins encourages residents to maintain safety this grilling season and to pay close attention while cooking.
"When you're cooking, you're cooking and nothing else. You stay with your grill," Jenkins said. "Keep an extinguisher or water hose close by, just in case."