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Barbecue grilling is an art. Get it right

East Meadow firefighter Paul Kosiba, left, and Nassau

East Meadow firefighter Paul Kosiba, left, and Nassau University Medical Center interim president and CEO Dr. Paul Pipia, at lectern, share tips Friday on how to stay safe while around the grill. Credit: Howard Schnapp

On the eve of one of the biggest barbecue grilling weekends of the year, East Meadow Fire Chief Philip Fertitta offered advice for Long Island grill masters:

“Take your time,” Fertitta said. “Barbecue is an art.”

Fertitta, along with officials at Nassau University Medical Center, which has the only burn center in Nassau County, gave tips on Friday on how to keep grillers and guests safe this weekend while barbecuing.

Outdoor grills are responsible for about 9,000 fires in the United States each year, and even the most seasoned grill masters have made mistakes while barbecuing, according to Dr. Roger Simpson, head of the burn center at NUMC.

Dr. Simpson, said common grilling injuries are flash burns — which result when gasoline used for grilling or heating engulfs a person’s extremities or face — and corneal burns, which occur when heat radiating from a fire, grill or barbecue burns the eyes. Simpson outlined the difference between first, second and third degree burns and advised against putting cold water or ice after receiving a burn.

“When someone gets burned, for smaller burns, cooling it down is the best thing you can do,” Simpson said. “Not ice, which can injure as severely as a burn can.” For larger burns, Simpson said call 911 and, if necessary, remove clothes that are enflamed.

Chief Fertitta said that for many Long Islanders, this weekend will be the first time they’re turning on their barbecues. He offered these safety tips:

  • Check the grill for grease build-up, the cause of most barbecue-related fires, according to Fertitta.
  • Monitor carbon monoxide fumes from charcoal grills, which when placed indoors or too close to a home, can be poisonous. Hospital officials noted that in May, 28 people were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in Mastic as a result of a grill being used in a home.
  • Carefully inspect the propane tank. It should be in good condition and show no signs of rusting.
  • Check for leaks in the grill hose and connection. Test this by applying soap and water. Signs of leaks indicate the hose is not safe for use.
  • Check the expiration date on the gas tank. If it is expired, replace it.
  • Make sure drip pans are clean and in good condition in the undercarriage of the grill.
  • Keep the lid open when lighting the grill. If it doesn’t work after three attempts, turn the valves off, allow time for fumes to dissipate, and try again later.
  • Man the grill, especially if there are young children nearby.
  • If barbecuing on the beach, don’t dump coals into the sand before extinguishing them because this can lead to burns on the feet and legs.

In most cases, Fertitta said injury can be avoided by just being careful. The overuse of accelerants to quickly light the grill accounts for many injuries each summer, he said.

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