During this pandemic, many families are spending most of their time at home. As warmer weather approaches, I know many of us here in the beautiful Berkshires can't wait to hit the outdoor patio or back lawn and fire up the barbecue for some grillin' and chillin'. Before you do, however, here are some important safety tips to keep in mind courtesy of the Propane Gas Association of New England and the New England Propane Foundation:

1. FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER'S INSTRUCTIONS.

When it comes to assembly, use, cleaning, or storage, always consult the instructions for proper and safe grilling.

2. POSITION THE GRILL IN A SAFE LOCATION.

Keep your grill at least 5 feet away from the house on a level surface that is clear of outdoor furniture, overhead trees and other possible fire hazards.

3. CHECK FOR LEAKS.

Use a soapy water solution to check connections for leaks. Expanding bubbles indicate a leak. And always make sure you do this whenever you replace a cylinder.

4. FOLLOW PROPER LIGHTING PROCEDURES.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions, and with all grill models, keep the lid open and don't lean over the grill while lighting it.

5. FOLLOW PROPER RELIGHTING PROCEDURES.

If the flame goes out, turn off the gas and refer to your instruction manual. With all grill models, keep the lid open and wait for a minimum of 15 minutes before relighting.

6. BE PRESENT.

Stay close and never leave your grill unattended.

Also, always keep in mind the safety of your kids. The grilling area should also be designated as a "No Play Zone", keeping kids and pets away from the equipment. To help kids learn about gas grill safety, the Propane Education & Research Council has launched the fun interactive website www.propanekids.com.

And for more information on how to use outdoor living spaces safely, visit www.pgane.com and www.propane.com.

The Propane Gas Association of New England and the New England Propane Foundation serve more than 800 members of the propane industry by promoting safety, education, and public awareness of the uses of propane. Many thanks goes out to them for keeping us smarter and more informed with these important grilling tips. Let's have a happy and safe grilling season here in Berkshire County.