Make sure to clean your grill before using it. Not sure how? The experts at Longhorn Steakhouse recommend spraying the hot grill with cooking oil and then using tongs to clean the grate with a rolled towel dipped oil. Contributed by Longhorn Steakhouse
Photo: American-Statesman Staff
Photo: American-Statesman Staff

6 barbecue safety tips for a great summer

According to the National Fire Protection Association, over 16,500 patients went to the emergency room last year because of injuries involving grills. Of that number, 8,200 were treated for thermal burns, which are caused by contact with heated objects.

»RELATED: How to safely thaw ground beef

"We typically treat burns all year round, but we definitely see more towards the summer when people are perhaps not as careful as they should be,” said Dr. Lonny Horowitz of Peachtree Immediate Care in Peachtree Corners.

On top of these injuries, the NFPA reported that grills cause an average of 9,600 home fires each year, with most instances occurring during the month of July.

Though questionable potato salad might be at the top of your list of perils associated with grilling out, here are a few tips to help you avoid more serious catastrophes:

Be careful with sharp objects. When your friends and family are around, it's easy to get distracted while preparing a big meal. However, when cutting vegetables, using a mandoline or handling skewers, one wrong move can cost you a fingertip or worse.
Dr. Horowitz said, if you do sustain this type of injury, it's important to keep the wound clean, wash it with soap and water, and put some sort of compression bandage on it as soon as possible.
Cutco has some additional tips for general knife safety.

Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your home or any deck railing. If your grill accidentally ignites, this extra distance could keep your home from catching on fire as well. Just in case, it might be a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher handy during your barbecue. Also, pets, children and outdoor decor should always be kept a safe distance away from the grilling area.

Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup. According to UL, a global independent safety consulting and certification company, flare-ups can occur when excess fat from meat drips down onto the coals or other hot parts under your grill's cooking surface. Keeping your grill clear of flammable substances can help keep you safe.

Open the lid on your gas grill before lighting it. The NFPA reported that gas grills contribute to a higher number of fires than charcoal grills. When the lid is closed, gas can build up underneath and then can cause a big problem once ignited. To avoid this risk, it's crucial for you to always open the lid before lighting a gas grill.
To keep your home and guests safe, you also want to check for gas leaks coming from your grill regularly. If you smell gas while barbecuing, move away from the area immediately and call the fire department.

Let the coals from your charcoal grill cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container.Thermal burns can come from contact with things like boiling water, steam, hot oil or fire. Remember that if your coals are still hot, they can likely transfer that heat to any metal containers you may use to dispose of them. Accidentally touching those containers can lead to painful and expensive medical issues, so making sure the coals are cool before disposing of them can be a real lifesaver.
Horowitz said that if you find yourself with a superficial burn, you can run cool water over it and then cover it with a small ice pack to help with the pain and prevent some of the blistering. One step he would not recommend is covering the wound with butter or cooking oil.
"Just protect the area, keep it covered, and don't puncture blisters because a sterile needle is required for that," Dr. Horowitz said. He also suggested seeing a physician if a significant blister forms.

Never leave your grill unattended. No matter what kind of grill you have, paying attention is crucial to making sure every backyard barbecue experience is safe and enjoyable.

If you're looking for more grilling safety tips, you can visit the National Fire Protection Association website.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.