Summer Safety

NFPA offers the following tips to make your summer safer.

NFPA suggests summer grilling tips to avoid fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges caution when grilling to ensure safe cookouts. According to NFPA gas-fueled and charcoal grills cause an average of 900 home structure fires and 3,500 home outdoor fires each year. Gas grills have a higher fire risk than charcoal grills. Leaks and breaks in the gas cylinder or hose are the leading cause, accounting for nearly half of gas grill fires. Placing combustibles too close to heat, and leaving cooking unattended, are the two leading causes for charcoal grill home structure fires. Half of all gas grill and charcoal grill home structure fires begin on an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch, so it is important to grill not just outside your home, but well away from your home.

NFPA suggests some safety tips for outdoor grilling:

  • Gas and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.
  • Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area: declare a three-foot "safe zone" around the grill.
  • Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when flipping burgers.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Charcoal Grills

  • Purchase the proper starter fluid and store the can out of reach of children, and away from heat sources.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.

Gas Grills

Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by releasing bubbles. If you determine your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame:
Turn off the gas tank and grill.
If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.

  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
  • All gas cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of gas before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
  • Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers' instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
  • Never store propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.

USFA Releases Grill Fires on Residential Properties Report

The April 2010 report, Grill Fires on Residential Properties, was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center.

Camping Safety

  • Always use a flame retardant tent and set up camp far away from the campfire.
  • Only use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns inside the tent or any other closed space, not liquid-filled heaters or lanterns.
  • Always build your campfire down wind away from your tent. Clear all vegetation and dig a pit surrounded by rocks before building your campfire.
  • Store liquid fire starter (not gasoline) away from your tent and campfire and only use dry kindling to freshen a campfire.
  • Always put out a campfire when going to sleep or leaving the campsite. To extinguish the fire, cover with dirt or pour water over it.

Fireworks Safety

Use of consumer fireworks can lead to devastating burns, other injuries, fires and even death. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) does not endorse the use of consumer fireworks and instead encourages the public to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.

Legal or not for consumers, fireworks are too risky for amateurs.

Permanent scarring, loss of vision, dismemberment - these are too often the harsh realities of amateur fireworks use. To keep the public safe from fireworks-related injuries and deaths, the nonprofit NFPA urges everyone to treat fireworks, whether legal or illegal for consumers, as suitable only for use by trained professionals. According to NFPA, amateur fireworks use endangers not only the users, but also bystanders and surrounding property and structures. Pyrotechnic devices ranging from sparklers to aerial rockets cause thousands of fires and serious injuries each year.

In recent years, fireworks have been one of the leading causes of injuries serious enough to require hospital emergency room treatment. Fireworks can result in severe burns, fractures, or scars or even death or disfigurement that can last a lifetime. The thousands of serious injuries each year typically harm the eyes, head, or hands, and are mostly reported in states where fireworks are legal. Even sparklers, which are considered by many to be harmless, reach temperatures of more than 1,000° F.

Wooded areas, homes, and even automobiles have become engulfed in flames because of fireworks. Fireworks-related fires have typically caused at least $20 million in property loss (not adjusted for inflation) each year in recent years. A substantial portion of the structure fire property loss due to fireworks typically involves bottle rockets or other fireworks rockets. These rockets can land on rooftops or wedge within certain structures and still retain enough heat to cause a fire.

There are safer alternatives to using fireworks on July 4th. Public fireworks displays are one of those alternatives. Conducted by trained professionals, these displays are the smartest and safest fireworks alternative for anyone because they are established under controlled settings and regulations. After these displays, or any other time, children should never pick up fireworks that may be left over. Fireworks that have been ignited and fail to immediately explode or discharge can cause injury because they may still be active. Children should always tell an adult if they find fireworks rather than picking up smoking or charred fireworks themselves, which is just too risky.

Fireworks are capable of devastating and fatal injuries. Remember, all fireworks should be left to professionals.

Source: National Fire Protection Association 2006

Fireworks Facts & Figures

  • In 2002, an estimated 3,000 reported structure or vehicle fires were started by fireworks. These resulted in no deaths, 60 injuries and $29 million in direct property damage.
  • In 2003, 9,300 people were treated at hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries.
  • Pre-teens and teenagers face the highest risk of fireworks injuries. In 2003, 60% of people injured by fireworks were under the age of 20, with 45% of the injuries incurred by those under age 15. The highest injury rate relative to population was for ages 5 to 9, with 8.9 times the risk for the entire population.
  • Males accounted for nearly three-fourths (72%) of fireworks injuries.
  • From 1997 to 2001, an annual average of eight people were killed in fires started by fireworks. An annual average of seven people were killed directly by fireworks.
  • In 2002, fires started by fireworks caused $26 million in direct property damage to structures. Fireworks-related fires have caused roughly $20 million in property loss to structures per year in inflation-adjusted dollars in the past decade.
  • Based on the amount of time and quantities in use, fireworks pose a higher risk of fire death than any other consumer product. Although cigarettes are the leading cause of fire death, the risk that someone will die from fire when fireworks are being used is three times the corresponding risk when cigarettes are burning.
  • On Independence Day in a typical year, fireworks cause more outdoor fires in the United States than all other causes of outdoor fire combined.
  • Six states ban the use of fireworks by consumers (AZ, DE, MA, NJ, NY, and RI). The other 44 states and the District of Columbia permit some or all consumer fireworks.

Source: NFPA's Fireworks, by John R. Hall, Jr., May 2005

Water Safety

Extra caution should be used when around water, for children and adults.

  • Only swim in approved areas.
  • Always supervise children near water at all times and make sure that children learn to swim.
  • Check the depth of the water with a lifeguard before jumping in.
  • Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD (personal floatation device) when boating, jet-skiing, tubing or water-skiing. Air-filled swimming aids, like water wings or inner tubes, are not substitutes for approved PFDs. An adult should always supervise children using these devices.
  • Be sure to extinguish all smoking materials and shut down motors, fans and heating devices before fueling a boat. In case of a spill, wipe up fuel immediately and check the bilge for fuel leakage and odors. After fueling and before starting the boat's motor, ventilate with the blower for at least four minutes.

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