Most insurance companies have a Loss Control Team that inspects communities periodically to assess potential threats. After the inspection they send a report to the board or manager with requirements and recommendations. One of the most common, and difficult items that come up in these inspections, are the BBQ grills on the decks or too close to the buildings.

Not only does our Loss Control team see this as a significant fire danger, but local fire codes and quite possibly your own CC&Rs forbid Grills on decks. A FEMA report from 2010 estimated that on average there are 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and $37 million in property loss each year as a result of grill fires.

What Could Happen?

No matter how careful you are, or what precautions you take, having a grill on a deck or close to a building just isn’t safe. Here are some of the many fire hazards associated with BBQ grills and open-flame devices:

  • Windblown grill embers near structures, especially roofs
  • Careless disposal of charcoal briquettes
  • Flame-ups from igniting lighter fluid under porch overhangs
  • Unattended grills that tip over
  • Proximity to structures or combustibles, such as draperies and window coverings, around open doors or windows
  • Part failures, gas leaks, blocked tubes, cracked and brittle hoses, and overfilled propane tanks
  • Fires from grills cause more than property loss — they can result in severe injury or even death

I recently had an experience where a BBQ grill on a deck caused a fire that severely damaged 6 homes and displaced 24 families. Here are some steps that HOAs and condos can take to prevent this type of thing from happening to them.
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Adopt and Enforce Policies

One of the biggest challenges to implementing restrictions on BBQ grills is consistency. In many cases BBQ grill restriction are only enforced when the insurance company brings the problem to the attention of the HOA, or a fire occurs causing property damage. Let’s face it it’s tough to tell someone that they can no longer have or use their BBQ grill. By creating a policy and enforcing it consistently, you will avoid the scenario where a resident is asked to remove a grill that they have been using there for years.

Make a Way to BBQ

For many the BBQ is a tradition, and an enjoyable way to socialize with friends and neighbors. Take that away from your community and you’ll probably be labeled a Communist, Nazi or any other misused cliché you can think of. But don’t worry you may not need to get rid of BBQ all together. Here are some ideas to make that summer BBQs possible.

  • Establish a safe grilling space in the common area and install permanent fixed grills for resident use
  • Allow specific types of grills. For example — an electric barbecue grills bearing the mark of Underwriter Laboratory may be a safe alternative
  • Where possible allow for safe exceptions. Perhaps within a safe distance of the structure and on a concrete patio. (check with your insurance company for acceptable guidelines

The fact is, the actions of one person in a condo or townhouse, can affect everyone. As a community leader or manager it’s your job to protect buildings and residents from foreseeable dangers like this

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