Thrill of the Grill – Cooking Safety
Guest Post by: Tom Harkins
The first form of cooking was by Mr. Caveman taking a piece of meat, fish or fowl and placing it on the coals of a fire. This form of cooking is still in use today, yet there are so many more ways to choose from. From using sticks and twigs at a camp fire, to charcoal and propane in the backyard, things have changed a lot.
The one thing that has not changed is the danger that is involved in OUTDOOR cooking. Yes outdoor is in those big letters. You should never grill indoors, or a garage or tent, because you could get a build up of carbon monoxide (CO). CO is an odorless and colorless gas which can only be detected by a monitor that looks much like a smoke detector. I would highly recommend purchasing one for use in your own home along with the smoke detector.
But today it’s time to go outside, enjoy the sunshine and talk about SAFE grilling, which I hope after you read this will be the way you will be grilling from now on!!
So where do we start? Let’s start by placing the grill in a proper place. Not under trees, over tall grass or near buildings, overhangs or decks. Also, let’s stay away from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic. Next we need to set up a safe zone. The safe zone should be no less than a three foot radius around the grill where kids and pets are not allowed. With in this safe zone, you of course have your fire extinguisher. DO NOT use a garden hose if the fire gets out of hand. Water will spread any grease fire. If the fire spreads to structures, trees, or grass, call 911.
How about the Chef? No loose clothing like long sleeves that could hang over the grill and catch fire. Let’s give the chef some utensils with long handles to make it safer for him or her. It is always best and easier to prevent burns than to treat them.
While grilling never leave the grill unattended and always heed your local areas laws and rules. During extreme drought conditions there may be burn bans in effect or wind advisories. If there is, remember that one little spark can have severe consequences. A small fire can quickly turn into a raging inferno that could place homes, land, animals, out buildings and most importantly lives in danger.
Despite precautions, if a burn happens the first thing you need to do is determine how serious the burn is. Caution: This link contains a drawing of burns which may be disturbing to some readers. Burn Image
1st degree burns are the least damaging – contained to the upper most layers of skin, and is characterized by redness and swelling. This can be home treated, unless it involves substantial portions of the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or a major joint (knees, hips, arm pits etc)
2nd degree burns produce the blister, produce severe pain. This should be treated as a minor burn if less than 3 inches, and not in the areas listed under 1st degree burns.
To treat minor burns:
- Cool the burn with cool (not cold) running water for at least 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. If running water is unavailable, submerse the burned area in cool water, or apply cool compresses (switching out often). Avoid the use of ice as it will intensify the burning sensation when removed, and may cause additional tissue damage.
- Cover with gauze bandage. Do not pop any blisters on 2nd degree burns – this increases the risk of infection.
- Take an over the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- NEVER apply any oily products to a burn. This includes butter, oils, neosporin or polysporin ointments.
3rd Degree burns are the most serious burns, and can not be treated at home. These burns affect all layers of skin and possibly the bone. They may appear charred black or dry and white. For major burns you must call 911 or medical help immediately.
- Do not remove burned clothing, but do make sure there is no longer any contact with any smoldering material that could increase the severity of the burns.
- Don’t immerse large severe burns in cold water – this could lead to shock
- Check victims circulation (Breathing, coughing, movement). Be prepared to perform CPR if necessary. Of course you have taken a CPR course through the American Red Cross, right?
- Elevate the burned area above the heart if possible
- Cover the area of burn with a cool, moist (not wet) sterile bandage or clean moist cloth, towels, sheets – whatever is needed to cover the area of the burn.
While we firemen do love a good barbeque, we don’t want to be invited to yours by a 911 dispatcher.
So let’s be safe and enjoy the Thrill of The Grill
Ret. Firefighter and Rescue Lt, Roosevelt Volunteer Fire District NY, and Jollyville Fire Department TX, studied culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY and St. Helena, CA campuses, and currently works as a consultant for marine life for a major pet care company. Proud father of 2, and grandfather to 2, soon to be 3. Author of Firefighter Battles Cancer blog.