Grilling is an American tradition and summertime staple. Most of the time, grilling cookouts go off without a hitch, but accidents can and do happen. Each year, grilling related accidents send an estimated 20,000 people to the emergency room and cause a reported $75 million in property damage.

Regardless of the type of grill —gas, charcoal, hibachi or smoker—grilling accidents happen and can have serious consequences. Improper grill care or careless grilling techniques can quickly ruin summer fun and cause a variety of accidents ranging from minor burn injuries to major fires and explosions.

Refreshing your memory of basic grill safety may save you from a costly or dangerous accident this summer. Here are my top reminders for a safe grilling season.

Replace an old grill. Propane grills are the most popular type of grill in the United States and can also be the most hazardous. The best way to avoid accidents is to keep your grill properly maintained. If you have an old gas grill, especially one more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing it with a grill that has new, important safety features.

Give the grill a once over. Make sure grease and fat buildup is removed from the grill surface and drip trays to avoid grease flares and splatters. Before starting the grill, take a minute to test for gas leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the gas tank hose. If bubbles appear, a leak is present and you should turn it off and seek professional maintenance.

Take your time. Follow manufacturer instructions for operating the grill. Routinely check the propane hose for leaks, even if that means taking an extra couple of minutes before lighting the fire. It will be worth it in the long run.

Keep a distance. Follow basic grill safety and use common sense when choosing where to set up your grill. Grill outdoors at least 10 feet away from the house, garage, or other combustible building or object. While it may seem convenient to grill on your deck or pull the grill inside the garage if it’s raining, accidents happen, people can get injured and houses can catch on fire.

Watch children and pets. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from grills to avoid the risk of getting burned. Never leave a grill unattended.

Don’t toss bricks. When using a charcoal grill, dispose of hot charcoal bricks and ashes properly to avoid trash can fires that could spread to the surrounding area. Douse hot coals with plenty of water to ensure the fire is out. Never place hot coals in plastic, paper or wooden containers, and avoid dumping them on the ground where cookout guests or pets might step on them.

So play it safe this summer — grilling accidents can happen to anyone. For more information on propane safety in general, contact your local propane dealer or visit the Cenex propane safety Web page.

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