Safety Tips for Backyard Fun

Friends making barbecue and having lunch in the nature.

When the weather’s nice, it’s time to play in the yard, picnic, and have a bonfire. The best way to keep festivities fun is to keep them safe, so before you invite friends and family, read these safety tips and let the fun begin!

Food Preparation & Cooking Tips

Thawing and Handling Meat

  • Keep the meat fresh
  • Always marinate meat and other food in the refrigerator
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator, microwave, or under cold water
    • Defrosting and storing fresh food in cold temperatures slows the growth of harmful bacteria
  • Never defrost food at room temperature
  • Keep fresh or defrosted meat at 40°F or lower
    • A higher temperature could increase the amount of bacteria in the food and cause illness

Steaks on a Grill

Cooking Meats

Make sure you cook meats to a safe internal temperature and check with a thermometer! Here are some magic numbers for the perfect internal temperature:

  • 145° F – Steaks and roasts (beef, pork, veal, and lamb) with a 3-minute rest time
  • 160° F – Ground meat including beef, pork, veal, and lamb
  • 165° F – Ground turkey and ground chicken
  • 165° F – Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose, and stuffing)

Once it reaches the perfect temperature, make sure to wash the meat thermometer in hot, soapy water after each use.

Food Prep Areas

Have separate areas for food prep, cooking, and serving areas. Cross-contamination is one way to spread bacteria. Keeping these areas separate keeps away any juices from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from ready-to-eat foods.

  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs
  • Wash your hands every time you come into contact with raw meat
  • Wash any cutting boards, knives, or other equipment that was in contact with raw meat or poultry in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher before using with other foods
  • Do not partially cook meats and then continue cooking later, cook your meat once

farmer holding box with fresh organic vegetables

Fruit & Veggie Etiquette

Handling fruits and vegetables correctly is important too.

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before you cut and prepare them to prevent bacteria growth
  • Store fruits and veggies in an airtight container, such as a bowl with a lid or a plastic zip lock bag
  • Perishable food should never be left out longer than two hours (one hour if the air temperature is over 90° F) unless the food is kept hot or cold
  • Be sure the cooler is packed full of ice and/or freezer packs

Couple loading car in countryside

Food Storage

Storing food is a big part of having a healthy dish too. Store food at safe temperatures and plan ahead if you will be going to a picnic or barbecue.

  • Avoid the Food Danger Zone by keeping cold food cold at or below 40° F and hot food hot (140° F or above)
  • Transport food in a cooler with ice packs
  • If possible, transport raw meat, poultry or seafood in a separate cooler to avoid cross contamination
  • When outside, keep the cooler out of the sun
  • Avoid opening your cooler so that it can stay as cool as possible inside

For more information on food safety, visit the Oakland County Health Division’s website.

As important as proper food preparation is, responsible picnickers also take care to ward off aggressive and disease-carrying bugs, such as mosquitoes, ticks, and horseflies.

Applying Insect Repellent

Prevent Bug Bites

With concerns about Zika virus and Lyme disease, make sure to keep those pesky bugs away with these important tips:

  • Spray clothing and exposed skin with insect repellent containing active ingredients registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Minimize activities where mosquitoes are present, such as shaded areas
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors when the weather permits
  • Eliminate standing water in your yard and items in which mosquitoes can lay eggs
  • Keep mosquitoes outside by fixing windows and screens that could let mosquitoes in
Ticks
  • Ticks should be removed as soon as possible, because they can transmit disease
  • Once a tick has been found and removed, clean the affected area thoroughly and make note of where the tick might have bit you
  • If symptoms of illness occur, head to the doctor immediately as many tick borne illnesses require treatment

Woman and beagle dog warm near the campfire

Campfire Tips

Campfire safety starts well before the fire gets roaring. When scouting out your fire pit, make sure it’s not under any low hanging branches or near brush or bushes. These can easily go up in flames if the fire gets bigger than anticipated.

  • The pit should be far enough away from any structures so the sparks can go out before landing on them
  • Clear all debris from around the fire pit, including garbage and grass
  • There should be a 5-foot perimeter of soil around the campfire space
  • If there is no metal ring, circle the pit with rocks to prevent accidental spreading
  • Keep any flammable items far from the fire
  • Always have water, dirt or a shovel nearby to help reduce the flames or put it out completely if necessary
  • Make sure someone always has an eye on the fire, as well as pets and children who may be close by
  • Start the fire with kindling and put the wood in a teepee shape around that
  • Add larger, dry pieces as it grows
  • Avoid using flammable liquids, which can quickly and easily get out of hand
  • Extinguish before bed with water or dirt
  • Stir the embers around to ensure another fire won’t start

Check with your local Fire Department to ensure you get a permit and follow the ordinances in your town.

You can also “Like” Public Health Oakland on Facebook. Follow along with them for the latest news in health on Twitter and Pinterest.


Visit the Oakland County website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for more news and fun year round. Join the conversation using #OaklandCounty.

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