Independence Day is almost here! The Fourth of July is a time when people typically enjoy the summer holiday with a backyard barbecue, fireworks or water fun. But nothing ruins the fun quicker than a trip to the emergency room, a call to the fire department or a preventable sickness.
Many public fireworks shows may be canceled this summer as communities try to avoid holding events where large crowds will gather. If you plan to use your own fireworks, check first if it is legal in your area and follow some simple safety tips …
- Never allow young children to handle fireworks. Older children should use them only under close adult supervision
- Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear
- Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands
- Never light them indoors
- Only use them away from people, houses and flammable material and never point or throw them at another person
- Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting
- Never ignite devices in a container
- Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
- Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
- Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire
- Never use illegal fireworks
Sparklers Are Dangerous
Sparklers light up the night as a Fourth of July tradition — especially for little ones. They’re easy to hold, less scary sounding than the bigger fireworks and a way to join in on the fun. But sparklers are a lot more dangerous than most people think.
- Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals. They can quickly ignite clothing, and children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries. For children under 5 years of age, sparklers accounted for nearly half of the total estimated injuries.
- Consider using safer alternatives, such as glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers
A fun barbecue is a safe barbecue
- Barbecue grills are designed for outdoor use, only. Never barbecue in your trailer, tent, house, garage, or any enclosed area because carbon monoxide may accumulate and kill you. Make sure the grill is away from the house, deck, tree branches, or anything else that could catch fire and keep an eye out for wind-blown sparks. Be sure to avoid high traffic areas
- When using a barbecue grill, be sure that all parts of the unit are firmly in place and that the grill is stable (can’t be tipped over).
- Use barbecue utensils with long handles (forks, tongs, etc.) to avoid burns and splatters. And for food safety, use multiple grill tools – Don’t flip chicken legs and corn on the cob with the same tool. Doing so just puts your stomach at risk of all sorts of food illnesses. The fix that the USDA recommends: Keep all raw meats and poultry totally separate from cooked foods and vegetables. Use different cooking tools for meat, poultry, and vegetables. And after grilling, don’t place cooked meat back on the previous tray, because raw meat juices can transport bacteria to the grilled meats.
- Wear safe clothing. Wear clothing that does not have hanging shirt tails, frills, or apron strings that can catch fire, and use flame-retardant mitts when adjusting hot vents.
- Keep fire under control. To put out flare-ups, either raise the grid that the food is on, spread the coals out evenly, or adjust the controls to lower the temperature. If you must douse the flames with a light spritz of water, first remove the food from the grill.
- Be ready to extinguish flames.
- Consider placing a grill pad or splatter mat beneath your grill.
- Never leave a grill unattended once lit.
- Don’t allow anyone to conduct activity near the grill when in use or immediately following its use. The grill body remains hot up to an hour after being used.
- Never attempt to move a hot grill. It’s easy to stumble or drop it and serious burns could result.
- Don’t store a propane tank in the trunk of your car. Propane can become explosive at high temperatures. Tanks are built with a safety valve, but this valve only works when the tanks are vertical. To transport a propane tank safely, Keep it upright in a box or other container. And if you’re out running other errands at the same time, make sure picking up the propane tank is the last stop on your list.
- After your cookout is through, don’t scrub off the grill with a wire bristle brush. The risk: The brush’s wire bristles can break off, remain on the grill grate, and end up in the food you’re cooking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn. Once you eat a bristle, it could potentially lodge in your stomach or intestines and cause major damage. Try using crumpled aluminum foil to scrub those grates instead.
- Don’t leave your food out all afternoon. Bacteria thrives in temperatures from 40 to 140 degrees, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, so keep hot food on the grill and cold food in a cooler. After two hours, it’s time to toss perishable food (or less – it only takes one hour if the temperature is greater than 90 degrees).
- Do be cautious making margaritas (or lemonade) on the deck. During a backyard BBQ, be wary of squeezing limes, lemons, or other citrus outside. Getting fruit juice on your skin while the sun is beaming can result in a nasty chemical burn. Phytophotodermatitis is a skin condition caused by the compounds in some fruits and plants — namely limes, lemons, and celery — that cause a chemical reaction when exposed to sunlight and lead to redness, blisters, and burning.
Don’t drink and drive
- This one should be obvious. But Independence Day was the deadliest day on the road for Americans between 2013 and 2017, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Boat drivers should also beware: Alcohol use is the top known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
- Don’t take your dog to see fireworks. The ASPCA has previously reported that more pets run away on July 4 than any other day. And it makes sense: Loud noises can stress them out and trigger their impulse to flee. According to the American Kennel Club, the best way to protect your pet is to keep them away from where fireworks will be set off in a safe, comfortable room with the blinds lowered. You might want to play gentle music to drown out the sounds, as well.
- Don’t leave your dog in the car. At least 28 states have laws preventing leaving pets in a hot car — and ignoring them can be deadly. The temperature inside a car can rise nearly 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, the American Veterinary Medical Association reports.
- Watch out for heat stroke! The hot July weather and excitement of the holiday can raise your chances of becoming affected by the heat. Watch out for the signs of heat stroke, such as hot, red skin, changes in consciousness, a rapid or weak pulse, and rapid or shallow breathing. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 9-1-1 and move the person to a cooler place. Meanwhile, quickly cool the body by applying cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin (or misting it with water) and fanning the person. Finally, watch for signs of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.
- Don’t use expired sunscreen. That tube in your medicine cabinet from your trip to Mexico might not be good anymore. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises being aware of your sunscreen’s expiration date — some of its ingredients might become less effective over time.
- Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your feet — Not only do foot sunburns hurt, but they also can be really dangerous: The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons reports that skin cancer is prevalent on feet.
- Apply (and Reapply) Sunscreen Liberally
- Continue to social distance by staying 6 feet away from others, especially if you are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (over age 65 or any age with underlying medical conditions).
- Continue to wear cloth face coveringsin public. Face coverings are most essential when social distancing is difficult.
- Follow guidelines for your area when it comes to how large gatherings can be. Avoid crowds and mass gatherings.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- Stay home if you are sick.