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Safety Tips from the Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council

Tips for Safe Outdoor Grilling

Safe barbecuing relies upon simple common sense, but let’s face it–we're all just grown-up kids playing with fire when we cook burgers over an open flame—which is part of the fun, but sometimes people do get hurt. Whether your grilling pit is powered by lighter fluid or propane, fire is fire. Know the dangers (and how to use a fire extinguisher.)

Burn, obviously, is the most common injury resulting from grilling outdoors. It is especially dangerous if you’re standing too close in the first place; you’ve created opportunity for burn. And if the fluid splashes on your clothes, you could ignite yourself as well. The best way to avoid burns is to use common sense.

Safety tips for backyard grilling:

The Barbecue Industry Association estimates that at least three billion barbecue events take place each year among the estimated 75 million households that own grills, based on its 1999 industry survey. Of those households, 60 percent own propane gas grills.

Propane Grill DOs

If you experience difficulties in the operation of your gas grill, contact your local propane provider for service.

Propane Grill DON’Ts:

First-degree burns, the least serious, are those where only the outer layer of skin turns red. There may be some swelling and pain. A first-degree burn is usually considered a minor burn unless it involves substantial parts of the extremities, the groin, buttocks or a large joint area. To treat minor burns, hold the burn under cool running water for about 15 minutes or immerse the burn in cool water or use a cool cloth. Cover the burn with a loose, sterile gauze bandage.

For burns on the rest of the body, here is the rule to memorize: the palm of the hand represents about one percent of the body surface area. If a burn is larger than one percent, go to the ER. If the skin blisters then it is more than a first degree burn. The patient should be taken to the emergency room immediately. For "meanwhile" first-aid, do not grab the butter off the picnic table and slather it on, no matter what your grandmother instructs. A cool wet towel or ice pack will offer some relief, but the burn victim should still see a health professional.

Most first and even some second-degree burns can be managed at home by applying an icepack for a few minutes, followed by a burn dressing: an over the counter antibiotic ointment and a clean bandage.

If grease or another sticky, hot substance (melted plastic comes to mind) is attached to the skin, it should be scraped off immediately and then rinsed with cool running water.

Keep burns clean while they heal with simple soap and water and antibiotic ointment. If blisters do develop, do not pop them.

Second-degree burns occur when the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer is injured. The skin blisters, turning very red and splotchy. The victim will suffer severe pain and swelling. Consult a health care provider immediately.

Third-degree burns are life-threatening, even if the area seems small. All tissue including muscle and bone may be damaged. Shock may set in and breathing may be impaired. Call 911or emergency medical assistance immediately.

For burns on the rest of the body, here is the rule to memorize: the palm of the hand represents about one percent of the body surface area. If a burn is larger than one percent, go to the ER, King advises.

Regardless of the degree of burn, follow these important tips:

Source: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Floyd Peoples, Chief Fire Marshal, Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department, 816-784-9100
Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council, 9550 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66212