by Jim Shahin
If you can stop the kids from accidentally lighting the dog with sparklers, then you're already halfway toward a disaster-free Fourth of July. All you have to do now is make sure the scamps don't self-immolate. More Americans cook outdoors on the Fourth than any other day of the year. A lot of them have kids. Those who don't often invite over people who do.
Keep kids safe while grilling.
How do you keep them safe? You can wrap them in a fireproof vest, of course. But a better idea would be to make sure they avoid fire altogether. It's weird, but a lot of men have a problem with this. I've found that they think having a child around a hot grill is somehow bonding. Look, read him In the Night Kitchen. Play catch with her. Go get an ice cream. But letting them play with fire is just dumb. Kids are adorable, and they are pains in the asses. When a grill is involved, the only way to keep them adorable is to prevent them from becoming a pain in the ass. Here are some recommendations:
1. Establish a three-foot zone around the grill. Mark it with Jersey barriers if you have to, or just use that word your parents used: no. Aside from safety, the distance from the grill accomplishes another important goal: It allows you focus on the food, which lets you turn out burgers you don't have to apologize for.
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2. If you are using a charcoal grill, don't add lighter fluid to a lit fire. Actually, you shouldn't use lighter fluid at all. Use a charcoal chimney instead. But if you do end up (inexplicably) using lighter fluid, adding it to fiery coals can cause an explosion. Also remember to put the can of fluid away in a safe place immediately after use.
3. If you own a gas grill, springtime would have been a good time to check the propane cylinder for leaks. If you didn't then, do it now. Apply a little soapy water on the hose. See bubbles? You have a leak. Do not use the grill until you replace the hose.
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4. If you smell gas while cooking, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a division of FEMA, recommends that you do three things: immediately call the fire department; don't move the grill; get away from the grill.
5. Whether gas or charcoal, use common sense. Do not barbecue indoors. Keep the grill at least ten feet away from your house or fence. Never leave a hot grill unattended. Clean your grill - grease can collect, causing dangerous flare-ups. Make sure the coals are completely dead before disposing of them, and then only in a metal container.
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And in case all else fails, have a fire extinguisher at the ready.
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