The summer months are a time when families enjoy doing a variety of activities outdoors. However, it’s also a time when barbecue grills and fireworks may cause devastating residential fires and serious injuries to children.
According to the United States Fire Administration, almost 5,000 Americans are injured each year by charcoal/wood-burning and propane grill fires. Statistics show the majority of grill fires on residential properties occur over four months: May through August.
Additionally, nearly 9,000 people are injured by fireworks annually. Children under 15 years old account for 39 percent of the estimated fireworks injuries. In 2009, 67 percent of fireworks injuries occurred between June 19 and July 19.
In addition, on Independence Day (July 4), far more U.S. fires are reported than any day of the year, with fireworks accounting for more than 22,000 fires in 2008.
Fireworks also cause serious injuries including devastating burns and other injuries to children. The National Fire Protection Agency reports that sparklers, which are typically viewed by parents as relatively harmless fireworks for children, cause serious burn injuries, accounting for one-third of the injuries to children under age five.
Ensure that this summer is a safe one for your family. Safe Kids Middlesex County urges parents to practice these safety tips recommended by the United States Fire administration to reduce the risk of a residential fire or a trip to the emergency room:
• The best way to enjoy fireworks is to visit public fireworks displays hosted by professionals who know how to safely handle fireworks.
• If you plan to use fireworks, make sure they are legal in your area.
• Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass.
• Always have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby. Know how to operate the fire extinguisher properly.
• Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
• Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a devise does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate it. Put it out with water and dispose of it.
• Closely supervise children around fireworks at all times.
• Only use the grill outdoors; position the grill well away from siding, deck railings, out from under eaves and overhanging branches and a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.
• Keep children and pets away from the grill area by declaring a three-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.
• Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because flames can flashback up into the container and explode.
• Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a grill.
• When cooking food, use long-handled grilling tools to give plenty of clearance from heat and flames. Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited when the grill is hot.
• Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately.
• Dispose of hot coals properly - douse them with plenty of water and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
• If you smell gas while cooking on a propane gas grill, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
• Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
Courtesy of Diana Starace, Safe Kids Middlesex County coordinator and injury prevention coordinator at the Level I Trauma Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. For more information about summer fire safety, call Safe Kids Safe Kids Middlesex County at (732) 418-8026 or visit www.safekids.org.