Independence Day is around the corner and families are gearing up to make the most of the holiday weekend. Celebrating the Fourth of July comes hand-in-hand with outdoor summer activities – whether it involves throwing something on the grill, heading out on the water, or setting off an array of fireworks.
Here are some popular Independence Day celebrations and how to enjoy them in the best and safest way possible.
Whether it’s in your backyard with the family, at a park, or by the beach, Fourth of July celebrations are often synonymous with grilling. June and July are the peak months for summer grilling fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, a likely result of people welcoming in the warmer weather.
The NFPA recommends not grilling if you are sleepy or drinking alcohol. Many accidents could arise from handling fire, so it is best to stay alert as much as possible. The Red Cross also suggests never grilling indoors — in a house, camper, or tent. Keep it out in the open and away from the house, deck, trees, or any materials that could catch fire.
When it comes to cooking, using long-handled tools is the easiest way for a chef to stay safe. Also don’t forget to never add charcoal starter fluid when the coals have already been ignited, as it could cause large flames to suddenly burst.
Fourth of July is nothing without a spectacular fireworks show.
It is illegal to have fireworks in many states, but if you or someone is setting off fireworks at home, make sure to never give fireworks to small children. If you do, supervise at all times.
Never throw or point fireworks at people, animals, vehicles, structures, or flammable materials. Light one firework at a time, but refrain from relighting a “dud” and make sure to keep a supply of water nearby as precaution.
You could also just go see a bigger, better public show, organized by trained professionals. Just remember to stay at least 500 feet away from the pyrotechnics.
Overall, you can have a lot of fun with fireworks without you or a loved one sustaining burn injuries – as long as you’re safe.
Fourth of July is a great time to cast off and celebrate on the open water. The U.S. Coast Guard urges all boaters to wear a life jacket when they’re out in the water and make sure that the boat is well equipped and everything is functioning properly. If you are operating the vessel, alcohol should not be part of the equation. Drinking may decrease your ability to make sound decisions and jeopardize yourself and the passengers on board, leading to a potential boating accident.
Be prepared for any emergency by familiarizing yourself with the boat, and its emergency exists, life jackets and fire extinguisher locations. With a friend, family member, neighbor, or someone else, always file a Float Plan – a detailed itinerary of where you’re going, who’s onboard, what your boat looks like, and when you plan to be back. Should an emergency occur, friends can provide the plan to the Coast Guard for help.
At the Beach
Cooling off or lounging at the beach for Independence Day can be as relaxing as it sounds, but take precaution with certain elements, such as the weather. Holiday weekend weather can drastically change from one day to the next, so keep an eye out for weather alerts or flag postings on the beach. The Red Cross believes swimmers should swim sober and with a friend, and to always have children and inexperienced swimmers wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
Rip currents are a responsible for thousands of deaths across the country, with Florida being one of the highest in rip current-related deaths in 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Pay attention to flags posted at beach entrances and follow rules set by lifeguards. If you’re caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of the current. Once free, turn and swim toward the shore. If lifeguards are not in place, stay at least 100 feet away from all piers and jetties, because these are likely locations for rip currents.
Sunscreen is also vital when hitting the beach. Wearing at least SPF 15 and sunglasses that capture 100 percent of UV light can go a long way. So too can limiting exposure to the direct sunlight of mid-day. Be sure to reapply the sunscreen as needed.
Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids (while avoiding caffeine), even if you’re not thirsty. Be aware of signs of heat stroke during weather that is hotter than usual: hot and red skin, changes in consciousness, and rapid, or sometimes weak, shallow breathing.