For many of us, the Fourth of July weekend is an opportunity to celebrate with friends, neighbors, and family, enjoy the warm weather outdoors, and have some wholesome family fun. The typical Independence Day celebration might include a backyard barbecue, a dip in the swimming pool, and fireworks in the evening. The Fourth of July weekend offers the break everyone needs as the weather heats up in earnest, allowing kids and adults alike the opportunity to enjoy some fun and relaxation. However, there’s also plenty of opportunity for danger in these traditional festivities, unless you take some thoughtful precautions beforehand when planning your Fourth of July gathering.
Let’s start with the obvious. Fireworks, outside of ground-based or hand-held varieties, are illegal to use without a permit in New Jersey – and not without justification, as they are explosives and can cause serious injury when used improperly or without due caution. Therefore, if you’re going to be traveling to a state where fireworks are legal to use, keep these safety measures in mind:
- Alcohol and explosives don’t mix. Anyone handling fireworks should be sober.
- Read all the instructions carefully and completely before attempting to use any fireworks.
- Be sure the fireworks are never pointed at any person, animal, or building when being lit.
- Keep a water source on hand at all times when handling fireworks.
- If a firework fails to ignite, treat it like the unexploded ordnance it is; do not attempt to handle or re-light it. Extinguish it thoroughly so it cannot catch unexpectedly or experience a delayed reaction.
- Bring dogs indoors before the show starts. Even well-trained, well-socialized dogs can become frightened by fireworks, and frightened dogs may bite.
Fireworks aren’t the only potential cause of serious burn injuries at a Fourth of July party. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in the period spanning 2017-2021, emergency rooms nationwide saw an average of 22,155 patients every year for injuries involving grills. The Fourth of July weekend wouldn’t be the same without burgers, hot dogs, and other favorites fresh off the grill, but it’s important for the safety of all your backyard barbecue guests to take a few basic precautions:
- Make sure someone is supervising the grill at all times. This person should remain sober while on grill duty, and another person should be available to step in if the grill-minder needs a break or is called away.
- Only set up the grill outdoors, in a well-ventilated space. It should be at least 10 feet from houses, trees, or other flammable structures or materials.
- Set up the grill out of the way of walking paths or high-traffic areas of your yard, and make sure that children stay clear of the grilling area.
- Never add lighter fluid to coals that are already burning
- Keep a working fire extinguisher within handy reach of the grill.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a swimming pool, it’s sure to be your guests’ favorite spot during your Fourth of July celebrations. It offers your guests an ideal way to cool off and have fun on a hot July day. But carelessness around a pool can have tragic consequences. Here are a few measures you can take to reduce the risk:
- Sober swimmers only. Alcohol impairs both coordination and judgment, and makes serious accidents more likely even for strong swimmers.
- “Everyone’s responsibility” is no one’s responsibility – assign a specific person to watch children in or near the pool, and take shifts as needed. The person on supervision duty should be alert, not on their phone or otherwise distracted.
- No running or horseplay near the pool, as the water makes it easy to slip on the hard surfaces.
- Don’t allow solo swimming. Having another person present in the pool to help in case of trouble is much safer.
- If at all possible, have an adult with CPR training present.
You may have noticed a common thread in all of this safety advice – alcohol. While it’s normal and reasonable to want your guests to enjoy the cooler of beer, pitcher of sangria, or other drinks of choice at your Fourth of July celebration, it’s also true that drinking increases the danger level of any already-hazardous situation. Handling fireworks, cooking over open flame, and swimming all carry a measure of risk, but that risk multiplies if the person doing those things is drunk.
The danger increases if your guests try to drive home while still intoxicated. With all the traffic on the road during the Fourth of July weekend, as people travel to visit friends and family for their own celebrations, this holiday is a particularly dangerous one in terms of drunk driving. Keep your guests safer by offering space to sleep if you can, and don’t let them behind the wheel until they’re sober.
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