Posts Tagged ‘outdoor kitchen accident’

Hannah Storm Brings Awareness to Outdoor Kitchen and Grill Safety

Friday, January 4th, 2013

ESPN’s Hannah Storm Brings Awareness to Outdoor Kitchen and Grill Safety

Did you know that, ever year, grill fires cause an average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and $37 million in property loss? Grill safety may get more attention now that an ESPN anchor had an accident, but it’s really more of a widespread issue that calls for continual awareness. Safety should always be at the forefront of our minds whenever we go outside to use the grill.

Luxury outdoor kitchens have become more and more popular in recent years. As a result, even more attention must be given to safety when constructing the elaborate outdoor kitchen designs. In recent news, you may have heard about ESPN anchor Hannah Storm and her frightening injuries sustained from a BBQ grill explosion in the back yard of her Connecticut home. To ease any worries you may have about lighting up the grill in your own back yard, I will share a little information with you about natural gas and propane grills in the outdoor kitchen.

According to reports, the ESPN anchor had a propane grill in her yard. In this instance, the flame had gone out so Storm opened the hood, turned off the propane gas, and immediately tried to reignite it. Upon reigniting the BBQ, a large burst of flames came directly at her, badly burning her chest, face, and hair. What Hannah didn’t realize was that opening the hood on the grill did not dissipate the propane because propane is heavier than air. As an experienced outdoor kitchen builder, let me offer certain tips for preventing explosions in your natural gas or propane-fired outdoor grills and grilling structures.

Hannah Storm had a standard grill so the propane accumulated inside the grill. Could you imagine the damage that would be caused by a leaking propane line inside a complete masonry structure? The damage would be catastrophic.  Built in BBQ and grill safety starts with installing a vents in these structures. Venting outdoor grill structures allows excess or leaking propane or gas to escape, preventing build-up before you ignite the flame. Without a vent, the leaking propane or gas will sit in the grill and wait for you to ignite the flame, leading to explosions much greater than the one in Hannah Storm’s yard. Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have to worry about a leaking gas line. My grill was built properly.” That’s not enough to disregard the vent in your design. Every gas line eventually leaks, and the vent is the easiest way to stay safe.

When it comes to the outdoor grill design, where should you put the vent? One interesting difference between natural gas and propane grills is that natural gas is lighter than air and propane is heavier than air. This means the natural gas will rise up in the structure and build up below the grill while propane sinks to the bottom of the structure and fills it from the bottom up. As a result, when it comes to placement of the vent in your outdoor kitchen BBQ, natural gas vents should be placed higher on the structure (just below the grill unit) to maximize their effectiveness in allowing gas to escape. Propane grills, on the other hand, might have vents on the lower portion of the structure (4-6” off the floor of the structure.)

In order to help you stay on top of outdoor kitchen safety, here are some basic safety tips for the outdoor grill and BBQ:

  • Every Spring check hoses and tubes for any blockage or leaks. Leaks or breaks in containers and pipes lead to 23 percent of all grill fires on residential properties.
  • If you smell gas, check for leaks, turn off the gas, and do not light the grill or any other flame. Also check for leaks when you reconnect a new propane tank. Since propane is naturally odorless, listen for a hissing noise. If you have any doubts about the connection, you can take some soapy water and wet the coupler to look for bubbles.
  • If problems arise, do not try to repair the grill yourself. Use a qualified professional to ensure safety during and after any repair jobs.
  • Give the grill special attention after prolonged periods where you have not used the BBQ. If you go a whole winter without using the grill, check for leaks or damages before using.
  • Leave the grill open for a period of time before lighting. In case any gas was trapped inside, this technique will give it time to escape.
  • Clean and maintain the grill regularly.
  • If a burner doesn’t ignite, shut off the gas/propane, keep the lid open, and do not try to light it again for at least five minutes. If the flame goes out during use, turn all of the gas off and wait at least five minutes with the grill open before turning it back on.