Many Americans start daydreaming about the Fourth of July practically before Memorial Day is over.
In the weeks leading up to the holiday, we stare blankly out of office windows, picturing a relaxing long weekend – days spent at the beach or hopping from barbecue to barbecue, nights filled with concerts and fireworks shows.
Unfortunately, along with all the fun, there are also some serious dangers associated with the Independence Day weekend. From the use of fireworks and sparklers, to a simple swim in a friend’s pool, a number of popular Fourth of July activities can quickly become disastrous when we don’t understand the risks involved or take precautions to prevent mishaps.
Although a beloved part of the holiday weekend for many people, when used incorrectly, fireworks can cause serious injuries and even death.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that fireworks are hazardous by their very nature. The agency estimates that about 10,500 people received emergency treatment for injuries associated with fireworks in 2014, with 67% of those injuries occurring in a one-month period around July 4th. Children under the age of 15 accounted for 35% of the estimated injuries, and the majority of incidents involved the use of amateur fireworks and other devices.
Swimming and boating over the Fourth of July weekend presents similar dangers, a fact that those of us headed to Rehoboth, Dewey Beach, or the Jersey shore would be wise to keep in mind. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. From 2005 to 2009, there were an average of about 3,533 non-boating related, fatal, unintentional drownings every year, with an additional 347 people drowning in boating-related incidents. And about 20% of people who die from drowning, the CDC reports, are children 14 and younger.
In incidents where both fireworks and water-related activities lead to injuries, alcohol often plays a role. Alcohol’s influence on balance, coordination, and judgment and its heightened effects in the sun and heat make it a dangerous substance in many warm-weather celebrations, including those around the Fourth of July.
Alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation, almost 25% of emergency room visits for drowning, and about one in five reported boating deaths, according to the CDC. The CPSC also cites incidents that involved alcohol use in its account of fireworks deaths in 2014.
Despite such alarming statistics, it is possible to have a safe and fun Independence Day in 2015. By following the safety tips below, limiting the use of alcohol and ensuring that children are always properly supervised, we can all make sure that our holiday weekend is as relaxing and worry free as we imagined.
The CPSC offers these and other firework safety tips for summer situations:
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Never try to relight or pickup fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
The Red Cross provides the following tips for water safety, along with more on their site:
- Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
- Always swim with a buddy, even in a public pool or a lifeguarded beach.
- Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well.
- Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to ask permission to go near water.
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
- Establish rules for your family and enforce them without fail. For example, set limits on each person’s ability, do not let anyone play around drains and suction fittings, and do not allow swimmers to hyperventilate before swimming under water or have breath-holding contests.
- Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Safety covers and pool alarms should be added as additional layers of protection.
- Remove any structures that provide access to the pool, such as outdoor furniture, climbable trees, decorative walls and playground equipment.
- Actively supervise kids whenever around the water – even if lifeguards are present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach – designate a responsible adult to supervise.
- Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
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