NJDOH: Christie Administration Provides Grilling Safety & Food Handling Tips in Advance of the July Fourth Holiday

TRENTON, NJ – Noting that the Fourth of July holiday traditionally features outdoor barbecuing activities, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which oversees the Division of Fire Safety, and the Department of Health are providing a series of grilling safety and food handling tips to help keep this year’s Fourth of July celebrations safe from injury and illness.

“The Fourth of July holiday weekend is a great opportunity to relax, spend time with friends and family and enjoy all that a summer in New Jersey has to offer,” said DCA Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III. “As we celebrate, I encourage residents to take all necessary precautions when using gas fired grills as the summer season begins. Unfortunately, there have been a number of instances where propane tanks being transported in cars have leaked volatile propane fumes, leading to fires and explosions.”

The National Fire Protection Association’s data through 2010 reveals that fire departments nationwide, including those in New Jersey, responded to an average of 8,600 home fires involving gas-fired or charcoal grills. Those fires resulted in an annual average of 10 fatalities, 140 injuries, and nearly $75 million in property damage. Nearly 83 percent of those fires involved gas fired grills and nearly 40 percent cited a courtyard, terrace, or patio as the “areas of origin.”  Another 28 percent began on a front porch or balcony.

Along with following safety instructions for grills, it’s important to prepare, handle and cook food properly to avoid illness.

“An estimated 76 million Americans get sick each year from foodborne illness caused when food is not prepared or cooked properly,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd said. “There are simple steps people can take, such as using a food thermometer to confirm that meat is cooked to a safe temperature.”

TIPS FOR SAFE SUMMER COOKOUTS

FOOD HANDLING:

  *   Thoroughly clean all cutting boards and surfaces that come in contact with raw food.
  *   When preparing foods, use two cutting boards – one for raw meat, chicken and fish, and one for vegetables or other foods that will not be cooked.
  *   Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in warm soapy water before and after preparing foods.
  *   Check to ensure food is thoroughly cooked by inserting a food thermometer at an angle into the thickest part of the meat, chicken or fish to check the internal temperature. Cook hamburgers to at least 155°F, chicken and stuffed meats to at least 165°F, and steaks, pork, fish and whole beef or pork roasts to at least 145°F.
  *   Keep cold foods in the refrigerator until serving time.
  *   Keep hot food hot by using tabletop equipment such as chafing dishes and sternos.
  *   Refrigerate leftovers immediately. Discard food that has been left out for four or more hours.

GAS GRILLS

  *   When lighting the grill for the first time, or anytime, make certain the lid is open or in an up position.
  *   To maintain your gas grill, keep it covered when not in use. Replace worn or defective parts.
  *   Check the gas valve to grill connections. Use soapy water only to check for leaks.
  *   Always make certain the supply knobs and the propane tank itself are completely turned off
  *   Never use any accelerant (lighter fluid, or charcoal lighting fluid) to light a gas grill.
  *   Keep children away from the grill at all times.
  *   Keep the grill away from any structure on your property, especially your home.
  *   DO NOT grill in or under any structure.

CHARCOAL GRILLS

  *   Never use anything other than charcoal briquettes, (wood, cardboard, etc.) in a charcoal grill.
  *   Use only approved charcoal grill fluid to ignite the charcoal.
  *   Keep children away at all times.
  *   Keep the grill away from any structure on your property, especially your home.
  *   DO NOT grill in or under any structure.

More information on DCA’s Division of Fire Safety and their various public education campaigns, visit http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dfs/

Summer Is Here June 21, 2013

Summer is here and that means it’s a good time to go outside and enjoy the weather. Whether you are relaxing in the backyard, turning up your garden, hitting the pool, lake or beach, or exploring the great outdoors, here are some ways to help keep you and your family healthy this summer:

  • Warmer temperatures are attractive to mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. To prevent the illnesses that can come with these, use an appropriate insect and tick repellen and apply it properly. Prime mosquito-biting hours are usually from dusk to dawn, but ticks are out at all times. Young ticks are so small that they can be difficult to see. To keep ticks at a distance, avoid high grassy and leaf-litter places, and use a repellant that has 20% DEET. Once you come back indoors, shower or bathe promptly and check for ticks. Wash and tumble dry your clothing as well as check pets for ticks.

  • Protect yourself and your family from recreational water illnesses by doing your part to keep germs out of the pool. Do not swim if you have diarrhea, don’t swallow pool water, and wash hands after using the toilet. For sun safety, avoid bing outdoors during the midday if the sun is intense, use sunscreen with at least SPF 15, cover up with clothing, wear a brimmed hat and wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB. Be aware of the signs of heat stress.

All of this is to remind you how to enjoy summer and be safe and healthy.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov

Hurricane Season Begins Tomorrow June 1 2013

Tomorrow starts the beginning of hurricane season. Planning includes staying informed, making a family emergency plan and having a well-stocked emergency kit.

“The best time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens,” says New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd. “By taking time to make or review emergency plans and develop emergency kits, families can be ready for hurricane season or for any emergency. There are lessons learned from our experience with Superstorm Sandy, such as issues with generator safety, which can help improve our readiness and save lives.”

We learned in Superstorm Sandy that preparing for loss of electricity is extremely important.

To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property:
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  • Consider building a safe room.