Nothing defines summer quite like a barbecue/cookout with friends and family. South Carolina barbecues are said to be some of the best too. But as with anything else you do this summer, it’s important to take precautions and stay safe. Keeping it simple, our friends over at the Insurance Information Institute have put together some information to make sure you can have your best cookout yet!
Hot to handle
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 5,700 grill fires take place on residential property every year, most caused by malfunctioning gas grills. These fires cause an annual average of $37 million in damage, 100 injuries and 10 fatalities. In addition, thousands more people visit emergency rooms every year because they have burned themselves while barbecuing.
In the rare instance of a grill fire spreading to your property, your homeowners insurance provides financial protection, as fire is a covered peril. A standard policy covers:
- Damage to the house itself
- Damage to personal possessions, such as lawn furniture
- Damage to insured structures on your property, such as a shed or gazebo
- Injuries to a guest, under the liability portion of the policy
Of course, the best way to enjoy a summer of outdoor barbecues is to take steps to prevent accidents, and take fast action should any occur.
Properly maintain and store your grill
Gas grills are generally safe if they are properly designed and constructed, properly maintained and regularly checked for leaks. Follow these safety tips when setting up at the start of each grilling season:
- Search the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure there has not been a recall on your model grill.
- Check grill hoses for cracks, holes and brittleness.
- Check for blockages, especially in the Venturi tube that runs to the burners. These can be caused by food drippings, spiders or insects. Clear any blockages with a wire or pipe cleaner.
- Check for leaks by running a solution of one part liquid soap, one part water along hoses and on connections. Open the valve at your tank and check to make sure that gas isn’t escaping, which will be indicated by bubbles at the leaking points.
- Adjust hoses away from hot areas or where grease might drip on them.
- Cover your grill when cooled and not in use to help protect its parts from inclement weather, falling leaves, and insect activity.
- Store propane tanks outside, away from your house. Always check to make sure valves are firmly turned off.
Practice safe barbecue habits
- Operate your barbecue on a level surface, away from your house, garage and landscaping.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and let everyone know where it is and how to operate it.
- Don’t move the grill once it is lit.
- Keep children and pets away from the grill.
- Protect yourself—or whoever is doing the grilling—with a heavy apron and oven mitts that reach high on the forearm. Use very long-handled utensils designed for barbecuing.
- Use only lighter fluid designed for grilling when charcoal grilling. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids, and never add more lighter fluid once the fire has started.
- Never grill indoors or in enclosed areas. Charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide (CO) fumes, which can be fatal in unventilated areas.
- Wait until the grill is cooled before storing or covering. When you’re done cooking, remember that the grill will remain hot for a while.
- Soak charcoal briquettes with water to ensure they are cool and inactive before throwing them away.
Know what to do in case of an accident
Despite all good efforts to prevent them, accidents do happen. Which is why they’re called accidents—and why people have insurance! Here are steps to take if the worst should happen:
- In case of fire get out the trusty fire extinguisher and, if the situation warrants, call 911. Fire spreads quickly and it’s better to be safe with professional help than sorry.
- Address injuries immediately. Run cool water over minor burns, but do not cover injured areas with bandages, butter or salve. In the case of serious burns, take victims to the emergency room or an urgent care facility. Again, if needed or when in doubt, call 911.
- Assess your property damage. Once you have dealt with any injuries and the smoke clears, assess your property damage. If the situation calls for it, contact your insurance professional to discuss filing a claim.
Summers in the Carolinas are famously hot! There’s no doubt about that. Fortunately for us, the summer is also the time when the pools open up and swimming becomes everyone’s number one pastime! Thanks to the Insurance Information Institute, here are some tips and information to keep yourself safe while enjoying your time in the water.
Pools are fun—and potentially dangerous
You’re installing a pool or “home spa” hot tub in for relaxation, recreation, and fun. And it’ll be a great feature to have for backyard parties with family and friends.
- Pool fun – An estimated 7.4 million swimming pools and five million hot tubs are in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Why is the CDC involved in pool counts?
- Pool accidents – From 2005-2014, there was an average of over 3,500 fatal, unintentional drownings in the United States each year. More than one out of five drowning victims is 14 years old or younger.
Is your pool a ‘home pool’
Each town has its own definition of what constitutes a “home pool,” often based on its size and the depth of the water. Contact your municipality to learn the local standards and relevant safety and building codes to which you must adhere. These may include installing a certain size fence, locks, decks and pool safety equipment.
Understand the insurance implications of a pool
A pool is considered an “attractive nuisance” by the insurance industry. As enjoyable as it is, it will increase your liability risk so it’s advisable to contact your insurance professional and review your insurance if you’ve got a pool or are planning to install one.
Pool owners should consider increasing the liability portion of their homeowners policy to at least $300,000 or $500,000—more, if their assets warrant it.
You might also want to consider an umbrella liability policy, which provides additional liability protection over and above what you already have on your home.
Be sure to have enough insurance protection to replace your pool in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster—including the amount of any pool-related items, such as deck furniture.
Prepare and plan for anything
- Create a barrier. To eliminate unsupervised entrance to the swimming or spa area, install a fence with self-closing gates or other barrier on all sides of the pool. If the house forms part of the barrier to the pool, install alarms on doors leading to the pool area to prevent children from wandering into the pool or spa unsupervised. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating several “layers of protection” such as locks, alarms, locks and safety covers to secure the pool and pool area when not in use.
- Create and post a list of safety rules and strictly enforce them with guests.
- Post emergency numbers on the home phone nearest the pool, in the event of an accident. Keep a copy and a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool.
- Know how to shut of filters and other devices and clearly post this information so others can do so in case of an emergency.
- Learn—and have your family members learn—basic water rescue skills, including first aid and CPR training.
- Get your children swimming lessons as early as possible. Having a backyard pool makes this a vital and important safety skill.
- Ask if pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. Do not allow anyone to use the pool alone (and don’t do so yourself).
- Never leave children unsupervised—even for a few seconds. It only takes a second for tragedy to happen.
- Block children from pool filters and other mechanical devices, as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing.
- Don’t leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use—they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers who might then fall into the pool while trying to reach them.
- Pay attention to the weather. Excessive heat can cause dizziness, which can dangerous around a pool. And never swim during rain or lightning storms.
- If you have a diving board, post the depth and the rules nearby and keep the diving area clear. Never allow diving into an aboveground pool.
- Don’t hesitate to curtail guests’ activities around the pool if you have doubts about their sobriety, their alertness or their water skills.
Stay safe around the pool
- Check regularly for potential hazards around the pool. Glass bottles and electronic devices can be dangerous near the pool or around wet areas. Toys near the pool can create slipping hazards or tempt children near the water.
- Use plastic drink ware and serving ware around the pool to minimize the danger of broken glass underfoot, and to protect your pool liner from potential damage.
- Limit alcohol use around the water. The CDC reports that alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation. Drinking negatively impacts balance, coordination and judgment—and its effects are further heightened by sun exposure and heat—including the heated water of a hot tub. Don’t allow anyone who has been drinking alcohol excessively to go into the pool.
For First Aid and CPR and other emergency training, contact the American Red Cross.
Learn more about pool safety at Pool Safely.