Independence from Accidents: AAA Mid-Atlantic Offers Safety Tips for BBQs, Firepits, and Fireworks
PHILADELPHIA, PA (July 3, 2017) – More fires are reported in the U.S. on the Fourth of July than on any other day, and fireworks account for more than half of those blazes, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). With the summer holiday just days away, AAA Mid-Atlantic and AAA Insurance warn that some inherent dangers of Fourth of July celebrations can lead to injury of party-goers, property damage and significant liability for homeowners and hosts.
“With preparation and safe practices, Fourth of July fireworks and cookouts can be accident- and damage-free, and as a result, much more fun for everyone,” said Jana L. Tidwell, Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “It’s always a good idea to consult your insurance agent to be sure about what your homeowners or renters policy covers and does not cover in terms of liability with party gatherings and potential damage related to grilling or fireworks accidents.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NRPA), June and July are the peak months for summer grill fires, with nearly 9,000 fires caused by grills, hibachis and other barbeques each year, accounting for $37 million in property loss in the U.S. Before firing up the grill, arm yourself with your favorite spatula and a few safety tips.
- Place your grill at least 10 feet away from walls and deck railings to prevent fires from igniting buildings. Keep your grill away from decorations, such as hanging plants and umbrellas.
- Never grill indoors or in confined areas; charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide fumes that are fatal in unventilated areas.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and know how to use it.
- Never leave a grill burning unattended.
- Grease can cause flare up fires. Keep your grill clean by removing grease and fat build-up from the grill and grill trays.
- If the flame on your propane grill goes out, turn the grill and gas off. Wait at least 15 minutes before relighting, and always make sure your grill lid is open before igniting.
- For gas grills, make sure the gas cylinder is always stored outside and away from the house. Make sure the valves are turned off when not in use. Check regularly for leaks in the connections using a soap and water mix that will show bubbles where gas escapes.
- For charcoal grills, only use starter fluids designed for those grills. Never use gasoline and use a limited amount of starter fluid. If the fire is too slow, rekindle with dry kindling and add more charcoal if necessary. Never add more liquid fuel or you could end up with a flash fire.
- Be sure to soak the coals with water before you put them in the trash.
A fire pit can be the prime backyard gathering place for a S’more or two as the sun sets. However, outside fire pits cause nearly 3,700 grass and brush fires a year. Before melting the marshmallows:
- Check with local officials to be sure that a fire pit is allowed in your neighborhood/township.
- Make sure the fire pit is, at minimum, 10 feet away from any structure or neighboring yard.
- Do not position a fire pit under a covered porch or low hanging tree branches.
- Always place a fire pit on a non-flammable surface, such as patio blocks or concrete.
- Flying embers need to be considered as well - always keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
- Extinguish with water: drown it and stir it with the shovel to make sure it’s fully extinguished.
What happens in the event of fire pit damage or an accident? Small, portable fire pits would typically be considered personal property, and damages to it would be covered under the personal property coverage on the policy. A permanent fire pit may be considered an additional structure and covered under a different portion of your policy. If a guest stumbles and falls into your fire pit, the medical coverage portion on your policy would likely pay for their doctor bills.
Sparks Will Fly
Fireworks cause an estimated 15,600 reported fires annually in the U.S., resulting in an estimated $21 million in direct property damage. AAA strongly recommends leaving the pyrotechnics to the professionals and refrain from at-home fireworks. However, there are always some people who will try their hand at fireworks for the Fourth. It is important to know if your state/municipality permits private use of fireworks. Delaware and New Jersey ban the sale and use of all consumer fireworks, including novelties and sparklers. Fifteen states, including Pennsylvania, allow only the use of non-aerial and non-explosive fireworks like novelties, fountains and sparklers, etc.
The National Council on Fireworks Safety (NCFS) offers the following safety tips:
- Use permitted fireworks outdoors in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
- Always have a connected hose, bucket of water, or other water source nearby.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Ensure all small children, pets and animals are away from fireworks noise.
- With the rise in stress-related disorders affecting American service men and women, pay special consideration to individuals who may be sensitive to loud noises in proximity to your fireworks show.
If fireworks are illegal in the area where you are using them, no policy will cover any damages that you may cause – verify that you are using fireworks legally. If you do experience a covered loss, damage to property would be covered under the liability section of your homeowners’ policy. Injuries would be covered under your health care policy, injuries to others, under the medical section of your homeowners’ policy. If a lawsuit is filed against you for fireworks-related issues are also covered under the liability section of your homeowner’s policy, whether the issues are with medical treatment, property damage, or both.
If you have questions about any or are concerned about gaps in your existing coverage, please contact a local insurance agent at 866-AAA-4YOU or aaa.com/insurance. AAA has also posted a helpful “Summer Safety” video at aaa.com/TV and a full Summer Safety reference guide at aaa.com/SafeSummer.
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