Springtime Safety Messages from the Alexandria Fire Department

Page archived as of November 23, 2015

April 16, 2012

News Highlights

  • Remember grilling safety as the outdoor cooking season heats up.
  • Use the following safety tips to ensure dryer safety
  • Use the following safety information concerning the proper use and disposal of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL)

More Information

  • National Fire Protection Association 
  • www.nfpa.org/grilling.
  • Download these NFPA safety tips on washers and dryers. (PDF, 105 KB)  
  • Safe Use and Disposal of CFL flyer
  • EPA Clean Up Recommendations for broken fluorescent light bulbs and other mercury containing items
  • City's Household Hazardous Waste Site.

    Barbeque Safety

    The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) reminds grilling enthusiasts and basic backyard cooks alike to remember grilling safety as the outdoor cooking season heats up. In 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year, causing 120 reported injuries and $80 million in direct property damage.

    One-third of the non-confined home structure fires involving grills started on an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch, 18% started on a courtyard, terrace, or patio, and 11% started on an exterior wall surface. Of these fires that involved gas grills, the leading contributing factor was a leak or break in hoses or other equipment, and the leading contributing factor of fires involving charcoal or other solid-fueled grills was something that could burn being too close to the grill.

    In 2007, 18,600 patients nationwide went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills.

    For general grilling safety tips, audio clips, statistical information, and a slide show on how to prepare your gas grill for grilling, visit www.nfpa.org/grilling.

    NFPA and AFD offers the following grilling safety tips:

    • Gas and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Place the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
    • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.
    • Keep children and pets away from the grill area:   have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.
    • Use long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames.
    • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

    Charcoal grills

    1. Use only charcoal starter fluid to start a fire.
    2. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid to get the fire going.
    3. Store the charcoal starter fluid out of reach of children, and away from heat sources.

    Gas grills

    • Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by releasing bubbles. If you determine your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame:
      • Turn off the gas tank and grill.
      • If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
      • If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
    • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
    • Only use equipment bearing the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
    • Never store propane gas tanks in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the tank and leave it outside.

    If you have a grill fire, immediately move a safe distance from the fire and call 911.

    For flare-ups:

    1. Be prepared to keep the fire under control. If it is possible, raise the grid that the food is on, spread the coals out evenly, or adjust the controls to lower the temperature.
    2. Normal flare-ups can be handled with a cup of water.

    Local Regulations

    • Check with your homeowners association, property management company or rental office concerning specific local restrictions on outdoor cooking.  These regulations are considered civil matters and will not be enforced by the Fire Marshal.
    • For specific regulations concerning outdoor cooking as stipulated in the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code, please contact the Fire Prevention and Life Safety Section at 703.746.5227 for further assistance.


    Dryer safety tips

    The leading cause of home clothes dryer and washer fires is failure to clean them. 

    Safety tips  

    • Have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional.
    • Do not use the dryer without a lint filter.
    • Make sure you clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry. Remove lint that has collected around the drum.
    • Rigid or flexible metal venting material should be used to sustain proper air flow and drying time.
    • Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe is not restricted and the outdoor vent flap will open when the dryer is operating. Once a year, or more often if you notice that it is taking longer than normal for your clothes to dry, clean lint out of the vent pipe or have a dryer lint removal service do it for you.
    • Keep dryers in good working order. Gas dryers should be inspected by a professional to make sure that the gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks.
    • Make sure the right plug and outlet are used and that the machine is connected properly.
    • Follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions and don’t overload your dryer.
    • Turn the dryer off if you leave home or when you go to bed.


Recycling and Disposal After a CFL Burns Out

As we move towards more energy efficient lighting, the Alexandria Fire Department wants to share this information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Alexandria's Solid Waste Division concerning the safe disposal of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL):

Use:  Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are lighting more homes than ever before, and EPA is encouraging Americans to use and recycle them safely. Carefully recycling CFLs prevents the release of mercury into the environment and allows for the reuse of glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights. *Please read this flyer about the use and safe disposal of CFLs.

Breakage Clean Up:  Fluorescent light bulbs and some older thermostats and thermometers contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within glass tubing.  Learn more about EPA Clean Up Recommendations for broken fluorescent light bulbs and other mercury containing items

Disposal:  Unbroken fluorescent bulbs or properly sealed broken bulbs can be taken to the City's Household Hazardous Waste Site

For more information, contact Robert B. Rodriguez, Chief Fire Marshal / Community Services Officer, Alexandria Fire Department, at 703.746.5217 or robert.rodriguez@alexandriava.gov