10 Tips for Grilling Safety

Memorial Day is just around the corner and is considered by many to be the official start of summer. As the days get longer and warmer, many people look forward to one of the tastiest ways to cook - outdoor grilling.

Unfortunately, each year, nearly 9,000 home fires [1] are caused by grilling, and more than half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns.

Check out these 10 grilling safety tips from our Burn Center team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, so that you and your family can enjoy the great taste of food cooked on the grill all summer long.


1Ahrens, M. (2016, April). Home Grill Fires. National Fire Protection Association. Retrieved from http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statistics/fire-causes/appliances-and-equipment/home-grill-fires.

Don’t “Feel the Burn” this Summer

Medical Intel Podcast – Dr. Jeffrey Shupp Discusses Summer Burn Prevention

Burns Come in Many Forms

Hear “summer” and “burns” in the same sentence and “sunburn” probably comes to mind.  But that’s not the burn that Dr. Jeffrey Shupp thinks of.

“Between spring and fall, the top reasons for burns are outdoor barbecues, bonfires and fire pits,” says the director of the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the only adult burn center in the Washington region. “Most cooking accidents involve a fire accelerant, like charcoal lighter fluid, or a backflash from a leaky gas grill or jet that’s been left on too long.”

According to the American Burn Association, gas grill or charcoal fires injure about 6,000 people each year. And while it’s true that being “under the influence” can be a factor, a more common cause is a false sense of security.

“So often we hear patients say: ‘But I’ve always done it this way.’ Unfortunately, those previous, accident-free experiences can lead to a lack of caution…and a second or third degree burn.”

Nowhere is that more apparent than with home fireworks, the second most frequent source of summertime burns at the Hospital Center. Nationwide, almost half of all firework burns affect children. 

“Fireworks can produce very serious injuries, sometimes even requiring amputation of the fingers,” warns Dr. Shupp who, as a six-year-old, was prohibited from ever using sparklers after a napkin caught fire at a family celebration.  

It’s an important warning to heed. The National Fire Protection Association reports that a seemingly innocent sparkler can reach 1,200°F. For perspective, water’s boiling point is 212°F; glass melts at 900°F.

Fortunately, most burns in the United States are first degree—mild injuries to the superficial layer of the skin, like sunburn, that can be safely treated at home.    

But up to 500,000 Americans each year need medical care for more serious burns that can be debilitating and even deadly.

To avoid the emergency room and assure a safe summer for you and your family, follow these simple tips:

  • Wear short sleeves or roll them up when grilling
  • Use long-handled barbecue tools
  • Establish a 3-foot “safety zone” around grills and open fires
  • Be cautious, careful and aware of your surroundings
  • Leave the fireworks in the hands of the professionals

Tune in to the full podcast with Dr. Jeffrey Shupp.
Have any questions?

We are here to help! If you have any questions about burns or the Burn Center call MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 202-877-3627.

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