Barbecues at home: How to stay safe

We’re heading into a very different summer to the one we expected. As we all become familiar with new ways of living, many of us unable to jet off on that much-anticipated holiday, our attention has turned to ways to enjoy quality family time at home. And as the weather heats up, garden barbecues (with only members from your own household so you’re not flouting lockdown rules) are at the top of the list. If you’re planning on hosting a garden barbecue for your household, it’s worth taking the time to consider some general fire safety guidance first.

Here, we run through barbecue safety tips to prevent injuries or damage to property and ensure your barbecue is memorable for all the right reasons. 

Before the barbecue

A freedom of information request by Swinton Insurance revealed that in 2018, fire authorities attended 917 barbecue-related callouts – and that was a 28% increase on 2017. It’s just not worth taking any risks – do your research and safety preparation ahead of the day.

The safety advice for barbecues in the garden is just the same as if you were to have one in a campsite or in the countryside. Make sure the barbecue is in good working order and only place it on flat ground that’s a good distance away from any sheds, fencing, trees or tents.

Make sure you’re always aware of any wandering pets or children. Anticipate accidents or trips and perhaps consider making the barbecue area a pet and children-free zone.

During the barbecue

Once you’ve got the barbecue up and running, common sense while cooking goes a long way towards protecting your loved ones. Take care with fatty foods – don’t use oils – and keep a bucket of water or sand nearby in case of an emergency. Depending on the type of barbecue you’re using, remember the following points:

Charcoal. Only use enough charcoal to cover the base of the barbecue with a depth of around two inches. Don’t use petrol or flammable liquids on the barbecue – firelighters are a much safer choice. Disposable barbecues release poisonous carbon monoxide fumes that can kill in minutes so they should never be used in enclosed spaces. Use your barbecue outside, where fumes can disperse safely, and leave it there to cool down completely after use – never throw it immediately away in the bin. Leave it to cool for several hours or overnight. If it’s hot, it’ll melt the plastic of the bin and could cause a fire.

Gas. If you need to change a gas cylinder, do it in a well-ventilated area and always double check the tap is turned off first. If you’re worried it’s leaking, brush soapy water around the joints and note whether any bubbles appear. Tighten it to fix – but take care not to overtighten.

A barbecue – whichever type you’re using – should never be left unattended and if you’re the designated chef, it’s wise to not drink too much alcohol so you’re fully in control of the barbecue and your cooking.

Tackling accidental fire

Sometimes, however careful you are, accidents can happen – but understanding what’s required in that moment could make a huge difference. In the event of a fire in the first instance, use the nearby bucket of sand or water to try to extinguish the flames. If you regularly have barbecues in your garden, it might be worthwhile investing in a dry powder or foam fire extinguisher – just as a precaution so you have the right equipment to hand should you need it.

As the temperatures begin to improve and more of us want to spend time outside, as long as you’re sticking to the government-issued guidance and remain in your garden with only your own household members, a barbecue is a lovely way to enjoy it. Just be sure to brush up on the fire safety guidance first.

The content of the CheckFire blog is for general information purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, under no circumstances should it be considered professional advice. Any reliance you place on the information is at your own risk. Always seek the advice of a fire professional for your particular circumstances and requirements.
  • by Toria Jones