Football season is finally here! If you’re anxiously getting ready to start the season with some pre-game festivities, there are a few important safety reminders you should brush up on before kickoff. Here’s how you, your friends and family can all tailgate responsibly.
Tip #1: Handle raw meat with care.
You may be known for your spicy chicken wings or beefy burgers but make sure you know the rules for handling raw meat.
- Before the tailgate, store meat on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator or in a meat drawer if you have it. Plan to eat or freeze it within 3 to 4 days.
- On tailgate day, store your meat in leakproof plastic bags or containers, with ice in a cooler.
- Wash your hands before and after handling raw meat.
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, and plates that come in contact with raw meat.
- Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw meat and for produce.
- Don’t use the marinade from your raw meat on cooked meat. If you want to use it, cook it to a boil first.
Tip #2: Fire up the grill carefully.
- Have a fire extinguisher on hand just in case. If you don’t need it, someone else might.
- Enforce a 3-foot “kid-free” zone around the grill. Never leave the grill unattended.
For propane grills:
- Be careful not to overfill a propane tank.
- Transport your propane tank safely, so that it is upright and secured in your vehicle.
- Check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to make sure there are no leaks. You can do this by making a solution of 50% liquid dish soap and 50% water, and brushing it on the hose connections. If there are leaks, you will see air bubbles when you turn on the propane.
For charcoal grills:
- Never add lighter fluid to an already lit fire on a charcoal grill. That can cause the fire to flare up and even ignite the chemical in the can or cause a chemical smog.
- While you can use lighter fluid to start a charcoal grill, consider using rolled-up newspaper instead. Or consider a charcoal chimney, which packs the briquettes together for easier lighting.
- Use plenty of water to douse hot coals after you’re done cooking. Give them a stir to make sure there are no lit embers.
- Do not put the wet coal and embers in plastic, paper, or wooden containers after use. They could still be hot enough to start a fire. Wait until they are completely cool and put them in a coal-safe container to transport them home.
Tip #3: More food safety to keep in mind.
A few hours out in the sun could turn a delicious dish into a potentially hazardous one. Protect your family from food poisoning by following guidelines for food safety.
- When grilling, use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your meat. According to gov, chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F and ground beef to at least 160°F.
- Nonperishable foods, such as breads, chips, and cookies, can be left out but should be covered for freshness. Condiments like ketchup and mustard are also okay to sit out due to their acid content.
- Perishable foods that typically are refrigerated should not sit out for longer than 2 hours.
- When in doubt, toss it out. If you’re unsure if food is safe to eat, don’t take a chance on it. Throw it out.
Tip #4: Protect yourself from the sun and heat.
Even on a cloudy fall day, you can get sunburned or experience dehydration. Protect yourself and your family.
- Wear sunscreen whenever you will be outside for an extended period of time. Reapply every 2 hours.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and a hat to protect your head from UV rays.
- Find a shaded area near your tailgate to escape the sun and the heat. Or create your own shaded area with a pop-up tent or beach umbrella.
- Alcohol can dehydrate you. It causes your body to remove fluids. Drink water as much as possible and in addition to the alcohol.
- Be aware of the signs of dehydration: muscle cramps, fever/chills, dry mouth/skin, fast heartbeat, confusion, drowsiness, irritability, or a dark urine color. Drinking water is usually the best way to rehydrate.
Tip #5: Appoint a designated driver and drive safely.
Tailgates are all about having a good time, and usually involve alcohol. But drinking impairs driving with sometimes deadly results.
- Before you even leave, choose your DD — designated driver – the one who will remain sober. If you have a regular group of friends that tailgate together, you can rotate that duty.
- Better yet, plan to tailgate sober. You can always celebrate after the game, back at home.
- As you search for the perfect tailgate spot, watch for children and adults darting in front of your car. Do the same when you exit after the game.
- Despite your best efforts, accidents can still happen. If you are the victim of a parking lot accident, know your car insurance coverage and alert your insurer as soon as possible.
- If there’s no one who is sober and can drive home, call a cab or ride-share service. It’s far better to get home safely than endanger yourself and others.
Hosting a party instead of tailgating? No worries. Check out our hosting safety guide here.
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