The 4th of July is quintessential summertime, thanks to picnics, endless hours of daylight, family gatherings, pool parties, carnivals, parades, and fireworks. It’s often the highlight of the summer for most families, with a chance to enjoy a day off together and catch a great fireworks display.
But the 4th for a lot of those same reasons, the Fourth can also be one of the more dangerous holidays. The use of fireworks, more people on the roads, boating, added alcohol consumption, all of those things mean more chances for injury. But we’ve rounded up some tips to keep your Fourth of July fun and carefree…and out of the emergency room.
Fun with fireworks
There’s something so awe-inspiring about a huge fireworks display overhead. A little less awe-inspiring is your uncle Harry on his fifth beer aimlessly launching roman candles all over the place. Which is why it’s best to leave fireworks to the professionals. In 2020, an estimated 15,600 people were injured by fireworks, most (66%) of the injuries occurring between June 21 and July 21, 2020.
And those fun sparklers that you see kids waving around at every parade and Fourth of July celebration? Be extra careful with them. They can burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt some metals. According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries.
If you choose to use fireworks this Fourth (and they’re legal where you live), note these safety tips from the National Safety Council:
- 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
- Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands
- Never light them indoors
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person
- 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
Grillin’ and chillin’
The 4th of July is a great time for a BBQ and it’s an even better time to brush up on your grilling safety tips. First, the stats: charcoal grills cause an average of 1,300 home fires every year and gas grills cause a whopping 8,900 fires yearly. A dirty grill is more likely to spark a fire than a clean one, so take the time to clean off the gunk.
Make sure your grill is set up on a flat, stable base at least three feet from any structure or things like balloons or tablecloths. Don’t grill under an awning, branches or underneath your deck. Keep kids and pets at least 3’ away from your grill at all times and never leave the grill unattended, even for a moment to “just grab a plate.” If using propane, start the grill with the lid open; if using charcoal, give the coals at least 48 to die out with the lid closed before disposing.
Keeping it safe on the water
If you’re boating, remember that everyone needs a lifejacket, regardless of how well they can swim. Anyone can drown and it only takes a few minutes to get fatigued in the water. At the beach, make sure weak swimmers are always within arm’s reach, and never rely on floaties or pool toys as life-saving devices. Always swim in a lifeguarded area. Use the buddy system and never dive into water you don’t know the depth of; kids need at least 9’ to dive.
At the pool party, designate a “water watcher” and rotate shifts so there is always someone assigned to closely monitoring the kids in the water. Avoid alcohol and other distractions while watching kids in the water.
Picnic & event safety
Not quite as critical as not drowning, but no one wants to spend the fifth of July stuck in the bathroom with food poisoning. Keep perishable food in a cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs. Not only is warm potato salad…gross…it’s also a breeding ground for bacteria that can make you sick. Keep drinks and food in separate coolers so the food cooler isn’t opened repeatedly. An appliance thermometer is handy to ensure your cold food never gets above 40 degrees. Two hours is the max anything should be left unrefrigerated.
For other Independence Day events, it’s important to set a meeting point for your family should you get separated. If you get bumped apart in the crush to leave the fireworks show, set a meeting point everyone knows to go to should you become separated.
Stay off the road
The more surefire way to stay safe this Independence Day? Stay off the road. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the Fourth of July is the day with the highest rate of road fatalities, so the best thing you can do for your family is to simply not be on the road. But if you have to travel that day, make sure you’re sober or that you have a sober driver, and insist that everyone wears their seatbelt. Be aware of your surroundings and put away all distractions. If your travel plans are flexible, try to travel a day or two before or after the 4th of July when there are an estimated 41.1 million cars on the road.
The Fourth of July is one of the highlights of the summer. By keeping these safety considerations in mind, you can have a star-spangled Independence Day party without worrying about anything stopping your fun.