by Jenny Fliegel
Independence Day is right around the corner, and we’re anxiously awaiting the upcoming parades, picnics, barbecues, and most importantly, elaborate fireworks displays. Whether your celebration will take place at the beach, a park, or even in your own backyard, have you considered including outdoor safety in your plans? In between your grilled hot dogs and cold beverages, keep these tips in mind to ensure your Fourth of July is both safe and enjoyable.
Handle fireworks with care
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 230 people go to the emergency room every day due to fireworks-related injuries in the weeks surrounding July Fourth. The majority of these injuries are burns on the hands, fingers, head, face, ears, and eyes.
The best way to protect your loved ones is to leave lighting fireworks to the professionals. Although sparklers may seem like a safer option, it’s important to consider that they burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees—hot enough to melt some metals. If you plan on using fireworks, check the State Law Directory to make sure they’re legal in your area. Keep in mind that even if fireworks are legal, they can easily cause injury if not handled properly.
If you do want to use them on your own, only purchase fireworks from a licensed dealer and read all instructions before igniting. Fireworks activities should be supervised at all times, especially if children are around. Wear safety glasses while lighting, and be sure to point fireworks away from homes, buildings, vehicles, areas of dry grass or leaves, and other flammable substances. Light one firework at a time, and then quickly move several feet away from the area.
If your device doesn’t go off, you should never stand over it to see what went wrong. Keep a bucket of water, fire extinguisher, or garden hose close to dispose of spent fireworks. If you or a loved one is injured by fireworks, immediately call 911.
Who doesn’t love a charred hot dog or grilled hamburger on July Fourth? While grilling safety might seem obvious, it’s important to pay close attention to these tips during your barbecue.
If you’re grilling, make sure your grill is out in the open and away from your house or any enclosed area. You should never leave your grill unattended when in use, and be sure to keep children and pets away from the area. And always keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup.
It’s also important to monitor the temperature of your food to avoid food-borne illness. Use a meat thermometer to ensure all meat and poultry is properly cooked before serving to guests. The U.S. FDA suggests never leaving food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and no longer than two hours at other temperatures. Also cover food and beverages when outdoors to keep away bees and other unwanted insects.
We all love playing in the pool or on the beach, but be aware of the local weather conditions and forecast for the weekend. Even if a lifeguard is present, children should be supervised by a responsible adult around water at all times. Always use life jackets and have secure personal flotation devices handy, and pay attention to lifeguards and posted instructions around swimming areas.
Watch out for the sun and heat
The sun might feel great, but it can have damaging effects if you don’t prepare properly. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF15 or higher 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply often.
Drink water periodically throughout the day, even when you’re not thirsty to stay hydrated. During hot weather, take frequent shade breaks to cool off and avoid the possibility of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, clammy skin, pale or flushed complexion, and fast and shallow breathing. If you notice someone who exhibits these symptoms, move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing, and give them water to slowly drink.
Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, red skin, hallucinations, chills, throbbing headaches, rapid pulse, high body temperature, slurred speech, and confusion. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, immediately call 911, and cool the person with available means such as a garden hose, a sponge with cool water, ice packs, or cold, wet towels.
Driving to your holiday party? Do so with caution. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ranked the Fourth of July as the deadliest day of the year when it comes to car accidents. An average of 161 people die in car crashes on this day, which is 12 more deaths than the average on any other single day of the year.
Allow plenty of time to get to your destination to avoid feeling the need to speed. There will most likely be more traffic on the road than usual. Stay alert and use rest stops to take breaks when you’re feeling tired. Program your GPS prior to leaving for your destination, and put the distractions — such as cell phones — away.
Always remember to buckle up, and place children in appropriate safety seats. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about 50 percent. If you’re going to a place where you know there will be alcohol, choose a designated driver before you arrive.
Drinking alcohol slows reaction time and impairs judgment necessary in order to safely operate a vehicle. Driving under the influence is the single largest cause of motor vehicle fatalities. Be sure to drive defensively; even if you’re not driving under the influence, there is always a possibility that other drivers might be.
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