ATLANTA - It's happened again: Football has become the cornerstone of our existence.
For some of us, this means months of college football weekends. And for others, it includes preps and pro games or a mix of all three.
Whatever your predilection, we go all out during the tailgate season, taking those sizzling burgers and brats on the road all the way into February and the Super Bowl.
A recent grill manufacturer's survey found that two-thirds of all U.S. tailgate grillers bought their barbecues expressly for parking-lot parties. Charcoal models, the survey found, still rule in popularity (58 percent) with gas models coming in second.
But beware. We still could use some safety refreshers.
"Nothing interrupts tailgating fun like an unexpected emergency," said John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for Underwriters Laboratories, a global, independent safety science company.
"That's why it's important that we all have a ‘safety first' attitude whenever we fire up the grill." Drengenberg said tailgaters should especially keep in mind that when you add flying footballs, running kids – and some running adults – into the mix, it can pose safety hazards.
"It's no wonder grills were banned as part of the University of Georgia's tailgating restrictions in 2010," he said.
Drengenberg said that once a date to tailgate has been chosen, planning a safe party is the next step. With all the action, it is more important than ever to apply the same safety rules used when grilling at home.
And so, we asked Drengenberg for best on-site tips for hosting the ultimate tailgate party.
• Position the grill a safe distance from any building or parked vehicle.
• Make sure all hose connections are properly tightened.
• Use insulated, flame-retardant mitts and long-handled barbecue tongs and utensils to handle food and hot coals.
• Always have a spray bottle, fire extinguisher and first-aid kit handy.
• Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill.
• Have someone in charge of the grill so someone keeps an eye on it at all times.
• Place all grills on a firm, level surface to help maintain stability and reduce the chances of a tip-over.
• Keep decorations away from your grill. Items like team-spirited tents and banners add a festive touch but also provide fuel for a fire.
• Never start a gas grill with the lid closed. It causes gas to build up inside, creating a possible explosion.
• Never leave the grill unattended, especially when young children or pets are nearby.
• Never add charcoal igniter fluid after the coals have started to burn.
• Don't set up your tailgate underneath wooden overhangs or near tree branches. Grill fires could flare up and ignite them.
• Don't use gas or kerosene to start a charcoal grill. Not only might the food taste bad, but doing it could cause a fire or explosion.
•Allow coals to cool completely before disposing of them. Or place them into a metal container designated for that purpose as charcoal can heat up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
• After cooking your last burger, extinguish charcoal by hosing down. Or consider using bottled water or melted ice from your cooler. Once you extinguish your grill, give it time to cool down before packing it into your vehicle. Extinguish gas models early enough so the grill is cool to the touch when you're ready to go.
• Properly dispose of food remnants and packaging according to venue rules and leave your tailgate site as tidy as you found it.