By Katharine M. Nohr, J.D.
The Fourth of July is one of the most eagerly anticipated holidays of the year in the United States. It’s a day to celebrate American independence, enjoy summer activities, spend time with loved ones, and of course, watch the night sky light up with dazzling firework displays. However, like any major event, it’s essential to prioritize safety to ensure a fun and secure celebration. Here are some crucial tips to help you enjoy your Fourth of July safely.
The centerpiece of any Fourth of July celebration is, without a doubt, fireworks. Whether you’re enjoying a community display or setting off fireworks at home, safety should always be paramount. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, on average, 180 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday.
- Know the Law: Before you even consider setting off your own fireworks, understand the laws in your area. Some states have banned consumer fireworks entirely, while others allow certain types and sizes. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and penalties can be severe.
- Consider Attending a Public Fireworks Display: The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by professionals. These displays are typically more spectacular than anything you could safely set up at home and come with less personal risk.
- Use Fireworks Responsibly: If fireworks are legal in your area and you decide to use them, remember to read and follow all instructions on the packaging. Ensure that they are never pointed at people, animals, or structures. Light only one firework at a time and maintain a safe distance once it’s lit. Importantly, never try to relight a “dud” firework.
- Safety Equipment: Always have safety equipment on hand when using fireworks. This includes having a bucket of water or a hose nearby to deal with potential fires and wearing safety glasses when lighting fireworks.
- Keep Children Safe: Children should never handle or be near fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt some metals.
Another staple of Fourth of July celebrations is the barbecue. However, grills can pose a significant risk if not used correctly.
- Ensure Proper Grill Placement: Your grill should be placed well away from your home, deck railings, and out from under eaves or overhanging branches.
- Never Leave the Grill Unattended: Like any open flame, a grill should never be left unattended. It only takes a moment for a small flare-up to become a larger fire.
- Use Long-Handled Tools: Using long-handled tools can help to prevent burns and splatters.
- Maintain Your Grill: Regularly removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and trays below can help prevent flare-ups.
- Operate Propane Grills with Care: If you’re using a propane grill, check for leaks before use. A leak can lead to a fire or explosion.
For those celebrating near the water, safety precautions are essential. According to the American Red Cross, more than 200 children drown in backyard swimming pools each year.
- Always Supervise Children: Never leave children unattended near water. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer a phone call.
- Use Life Jackets: Everyone, especially children and weak swimmers, should use life jackets when near the water. Remember, inflatable toys and mattresses are not safety devices.
- Stay Sober: Avoid drinking alcohol if you are swimming or supervising children. Alcohol can impair your judgment and reflexes.
- Learn CPR: In the unfortunate event of a water-related incident, knowing CPR can save lives. Consider getting certified if you’re not already.
Finally, remember that the Fourth of July is in the middle of summer. The heat can pose risks, especially to the elderly, the very young, and those with health problems.
- Stay Hydrated: Make sure you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
- Wear Sunscreen: Protect your skin from harmful UV radiation by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
- Take Breaks: If possible, take breaks in an air-conditioned area. If this is not possible, try to stay in the shade or wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect against the sun.
- Watch for Signs of Heat Stroke: Heat stroke is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. Watch for signs such as hot, red skin, changes in consciousness, rapid, weak pulse, or rapid, shallow breathing.
The Fourth of July is a day of celebration. It’s a time for barbecue, fireworks, and spending time with loved ones. By following these safety tips, you can help ensure that your celebration is both fun and safe. Remember, safety always comes first. Don’t let a preventable accident ruin your holiday. Stay safe, have fun, and enjoy the Fourth of July!
Katharine M. Nohr, J.D. has been a member of IAIP since 2002. She has served as president of the Honolulu Association of Insurance Professionals (HAIP), Hawaii State Council Director, RVP of Region VIII, and has served on many IAIP committees and task forces. She is an insurance defense attorney in Hawaii.