When the Smiths invited the Joneses for a backyard barbeque along with eight other friends, they had no idea they were also inviting a four-year-old Afghan hound named Tasha.
On the afternoon of the party, Tasha bounded through the Smiths’ front door even before her owners had a chance to greet their hosts. The elegant, aristocratic canine quickly became the hit of the party. However, after tiring of a lot of petting and pats on the head, she smelled the scent of steaks grilling and slipped silently through the open patio door.
About 20 seconds later, guests heard a huge crash and a yelp from the vicinity of the unattended grill. Steaks were launched into the air. And perfectly-groomed Tasha sported a few inches of singed fur surrounding a hole in her coat. Horrified, her owners rushed her to their car and off to the emergency vet clinic. Although the Afghan was quickly checked out and cleared for more misadventures, the party was ruined. The Smiths and the Joneses are still arguing over who should pay the clinic bill.
Each summer, millions of Americans look forward to easy, laid-back summer celebrations in their backyards. Whether it means grilling some meat, chicken, or fish or hosting a family picnic, it can result in major accidents or injuries far worse than what the dog suffered. A systematic check of your outdoor areas for potential safety hazards can help keep your family and friends safe while you enjoy yourselves.
According to the International Code Council (ICC), an organization devoted to promoting building safety and fire prevention, most homes have three problems areas:
Porches, decks, and balconies. The primary danger with a porch is a risk of collapsing if the structure is poorly constructed or old. One common hazard arises when porches are nailed to homes rather than being attached using the appropriate anchors or bolts. The use of nails is considered a poor practice because the nails can work themselves loose over time. Other safety hazards to look out for include:
1 – Wood that’s split or rotting
2 – Wobbly guardrails or handrails
3 – Swaying or unstable porches
4 – Poor end support for the porch desk, joists, or girders
5 – Absent, damaged, or loose support beams and planking
6 – Excessive porch movement when you walk on the structure
7 – Missing, loose, or rusting anchors, nails or screws
According to the ICC, building or repairing your property to code, which requires a building permit followed by at least one inspection, helps make sure a porch is safe. Even if your porch is within the weight limits it’s supposed to safely hold, you must be careful not to allow it to become overcrowded during the party.
Grills. Grilling near any combustible area is a fire hazard. So is leaving a grill unattended. If your apartment or condo complex allows grilling, you might be putting your neighbors at risk as well. The two most frequent grilling hazards are open flames and heat generated in the base of the grill that can transfer to porch wood or siding and catch fire. The ICC suggests you follow these safety precautions:
1 – Position the grill away from any deck railings, siding, and areas under eaves and low-hanging branches.
2 – Use only the appropriate starter fluid and store it away from any sources of heat.
3 – Remove any grease or fat buildup from time to time.
4 – Check for any leaks before using a propane cylinder.
5 – Never try to move a hot grill.
6 – Use the proper method to dispose of charcoal, making sure ash containers are outside and away from anything combustible.
The 2003 International Fire Code prohibits utilizing charcoal and gas grills on combustible porches or within 10 feet of combustible construction.
Swimming pools: They’re a strong temptation to young children. All in-ground and above-ground pools should have a fence or other barrier surrounding them. Even small pools you can inflate should be protected and watched. According to the International Building Code, any pool filled with more than 24 inches of water must have a 4-foot fence or other type of barrier around it. And any gates in the fence should be self-closing and self-latching. When purchasing a pool, you should also take into consideration building permit requirements, insurance policies, zoning requirements, electrical clearances, and utility easements.
Common sense also dictates that pets be kept out of crowded areas, especially when small children are present. They should never be allowed free access to areas where tantalizing food is cooking or surfaces are hot.
Tasha survived her brief encounter with the grill. However, she wasn’t able to nab even one bite of steak.