Barbecue Safety

Many people will be barbecuing this holiday weekend, and whether you're using a gas or a charcoal grill, it's important to follow a few basic safety tips.

Chef and veteran New York City fireman Joe Bonanno visited The Saturday Early Show with some advice that could save you or your loved ones a trip to the emergency room.

Bonanno says he has witnessed fires that resulted from barbecue accidents. So, he warns, it is important that people make safety their top priority when cooking outdoors.

Here are some safe grilling suggestions from Bonanno:

Examine the Grill
Before you light a barbecue, whether you have a charcoal or gas grill, Bonanno says make sure that the grill is structurally and technically sound after the long winter. Rust on a leg could make the barbecue topple once coals are loaded into it and cause injury.

Check for Gas Leaks
Make sure you have no gas leaks by rubbing soapy water onto the gas hose and turn the gas on. If there is a leak, you will see bubbles appear. Bonanno says do not, under any circumstances, ignite the grill. Before using the grill again buy a new hose.

Keep Water Nearby
Keep a garden hose that is charged with water nearby. If this is not possible, have a bucket of water nearby anytime you barbecue to either dose a flame in an emergency or to use on a burn that should be immediately cooled.

Grill in Well-Ventilated Areas
Bonanno explains that some people barbecue in their garages with the door open. This is a bad idea, he says, because the area may not be as well-ventilated as you think it is . Bononno says barbecues produce carbon monoxide that can build up in an enclosed area. They are invisible - colorless and tasteless - but extremely dangerous. He says try grilling instead at the corner of your deck or patio. Avoid grilling on a porch, deck or on top of anything that can catch on fire.

Keep Children Away From Grill
This may be a hard rule to enforce, because children like to be around the grill and may be unaware that it is very hot. If at all possible, keep the kids away from the grill. Bononno says an even better idea is to grill away from people. The New York City Fire Department suggests keeping grills at least 10 feet away from your house, garage or trees.

Have a Phone and First Aid Kit Nearby
Have nearby - in addition to water - a phone and a first aid kit. Bononno says don't delay calling 911 to keep a situation from getting out of control. Also, he says, make sure that your first aid kit is nearby and stocked with updated products for outdoor activities.

Avoid Cross-Contamination
Bonanno says you should have separate cutting boards and containers for meats and for vegetables to avoid bacterial contamination between foods. And, Bonanno says, be sure to clean the cutting boards and containers before putting the cooked food back on them. Another option, he says, is purchasing new cutting boards in different colors for different foods.