A "good grilling" from the safety officer Published July 9, 2010 By Lt. Col. Walt Koelln 94th Airlift Wing Chief of Safety DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- Greetings from your Wing Safety Office. I hope you all enjoyed a fun and safe Independence Day holiday with family and friends celebrating the birth of this great nation. Please keep in your thoughts and prayers our deployed military members who were not able to share this holiday time with family and friends as they continue to support and defend our freedom from terror and tyranny. Congratulations are in order...94 AW has made it half way through the Critical Days of Summer 2010 with no major mishaps! Please continue to remain vigilant to safety issues and keep mitigating those risks as we enter the second half of the summer with Labor Day Weekend not that far off. And speaking of holidays and summer fun, not much is finer than whipping up a meal including barbecued steaks, hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, or ribs. This week's Critical Days of Summer topic is (you guessed it) "Grilling and BBQ Safety". Please feel free to share this information with family and friends. "In 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including an average of 2,900 structure fires and 5,000 outside fires. These 7,900 fires caused annual average of 10 civilian deaths, 120 reported injuries, and $80 million in direct property damage. Although gas grills are used roughly 1.5 times as often as charcoal grills, they were involved in five times as many fires. Gas grills were involved in 6,400 home fires, including 2,100 structure fires and 4,300 outdoor fires. One-third (33%) of the home structure fires involving grills started on an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch, 18% started on a courtyard, terrace or patio, and 11% started on an exterior wall surface." (Source: NFPA's "Selections From Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment - Grilling," by Marty Ahrens, November 2009." Whether you use a gas grill, charcoal, or a smoker of some type, mitigating the risk of introducing fire to your preferred outdoor cooking method is a must. The situation can become "explosive" in a hurry. And as with any other "risky" activity, I suggest you leave the alcohol in the cabinet or cooler if you're in charge of the grillin'. Wait till you're actually enjoying the fruits of your cooking labor (after the grill/smoker is off and fully secure) before fully enjoying the "fruits of the bottle". Common sense grilling tips: 1) Keep your equipment clean and in good working order. The built up grease may smell good and make your meat taste good but flare ups can wipe your eyebrows right off your face. Or melt the hair on your arms. Or worse... 2) Keep your equipment a safe distance from other combustible material (like your family and your house). 3) Use your equipment only for what it was intended for (no drying your swimsuits over the grill...you laugh...). 4) DON'T use your equipment indoors! That includes the garage! (you laugh...). 5) If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. 6) Keep the kiddies and Fido away from your equipment! 7) Keep cold food cold, hot food hot, and utensils/platters clean. Don't reuse the same platter the raw meat was on for the cooked meat without cleaning the platter first. These last few techniques will keep your digestive equipment clean and in good working order... Some useful websites on outdoor cooking food handling and preparation, and grilling safety: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Barbecue_Food_Safety/index.asp http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=298&itemID=18346&URL=Research%20&%20Reports/Fact%20sheets/Seasonal%20safety/Grilling&cookie%5Ftest=1 Take care and happy grilling! If you need a taste-tester, I'm available all summer! Until next time...be safe!