Staying safe in barbecue season

This summer, we’re experiencing sweltering heat and soaring – record-breaking – temperatures. Naturally, we’re making the most of this long-overdue great weather by getting outdoors with the family, firing up the barbecue and enjoying quality time together. However, if you’re planning on doing just that, it’s worth taking the time to familiarise yourself with 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 your gathering

A freedom of information request by Swinton Insurance revealed that last year, fire authorities attended 917 barbecue-related callouts – and that was a 28% increase on 2017. It’s simply not worth taking any risks – do your research and safety preparation ahead of the event. Earlier this year, more than 700 acres of moorland in West Yorkshire were destroyed following a fire started by a barbecue at a local picnic spot. As a result, some councils have made the move to ban barbecues in certain areas. If you’re planning your barbecue on public land, find out first whether it’s allowed.

Whether a back garden, campsite or countryside barbecue, the safety advice remains the same. 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 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 host barbecues, 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.

Make the most of the fantastic weather we’re being treated to this summer with a celebratory barbecue – 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