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(ARA) - If you don't have the extra time or cash to take a summer trip, fun for you and your family can be as close as your own backyard.
"Just make sure you play it safe," says Charles Valinotti, senior vice president with QBE Regional, which specializes in property and casualty insurance. He recommends that before summer is in full swing, you make sure your backyard is ready for the season's get-togethers and activities.
Hit the deck
The U.S. Product Safety Commission says deck collapse is one of the most serious recreational safety threats, caused by shoddy construction or poor maintenance. Valinotti says you should review local codes to make sure your deck's railings and spindle widths are in compliance. "If you see a loose step or handrail, fix it," Valinotti says. "Otherwise, it's an accident just waiting to happen." So before you host that first deck party:
Make sure the deck is secured to your home by heavy-duty steel bolts specially designed to secure wooden structures. If your deck is simply nailed or screwed on, it could pull away from the house.
Inspect the wood. Does your deck's wood need to be treated and sealed? This helps prevent dry rot, wood splintering and mishaps. Valinotti notes one QBE customer fell through rotted steps while grasping a shaky handrail, causing $113,000 in injuries.
Look at the lattice. If you've added lattice to your deck for privacy, make sure it's sturdy enough to prevent a child -- or adult -- from falling through it.
Secure your yard
Is your yard all clear for summer activities?
Work on play areas. Your backyard swing set and other playground equipment should have plenty of shock-absorbing materials -- such as wood chips or sand -- underneath and on the perimeter. Replenish those materials if they look skimpy.
Keep tabs on cords. Don't run electrical cords in areas where people congregate. "And never use an indoor extension cord for an outside job. It could cause electric shock or create a fire hazard," Valinotti says.
De-clutter for safety. Don't leave toys, tools or lawn equipment in the yard.
Prep your grill
Gas grills continue to be popular for preparing outdoor meals. To squelch the chance of fire and injuries:
Clean before you cook.
"Once a year you need to give your grill a good cleaning," Valinotti says. "Frequently grilling meats like steak and chicken will cause a lot of grease build-up." Disconnect the gas and lift out the grill parts layer by layer. Once you get down to the burners, make sure you inspect them thoroughly. Completely clean the grill and grates with soapy water.
Inspect hoses. Check your grill's hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks.
Invest in extra protection. Buy a grill pad or splatter mat to place under your grill. These naturally heat-resistant pads made of composite cement or plastic will catch grease that misses the drip pan and help prevent a flare-up. Courtesy of ARAcontent