Safety Tips For July 4th

portrait photo of Thomas

Thomas W. Dombrowski, P.E., CFEI

Fourth of July Safety Tips

During a conversation I had with an old-school adjuster, we discussed the cyclical nature of insurance claims.  He stated that his experience had taught him that insurance claims spike during the holidays, particularly, the periods of Christmas and the three summer months.  He noted that an increased consumption of "adult beverages" during these times could also contribute to the increase of claims.  With one of these holidays being the Fourth of July (which is just around the corner), we look at three popular activities that take place around this holiday: the use of fireworks, grilling food, and swimming pools. Below are some tips to remain safe while enjoying your holiday.

Use of Fireworks

The use of fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday is a big tradition here in the states, even in locations where they are illegal. The mission of the National Council on Fireworks Safety is to educate the public on the safe and responsible use of consumer fireworks so as to eliminate injuries.

National Council on Fireworks Safety Recommended Safety Tips:
  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  • A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities.  Never give fireworks to children.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.  Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  • Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  • Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • FAA regulations PROHIBIT the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.
Let’s also not forget the safety of our pets!
  • Don’t bring your pets to a fireworks display, even a small one.
  • If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to the sound.
  • Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.
  • Never shoot fireworks of any kind (consumer fireworks, sparklers, fountains, etc.) near pets.

Grilling Food

Summer is the peak time of the use of outdoor grills to cook food.  However, an outdoor grill placed too close to anything that can burn is a fire hazard.  According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), July is the peak month for grill fires.  From 2012 to 2016 an average of 16,600 patients per year went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills.

National Fire Protection Association Grilling Safety Tips:
  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
Propane Grills
  • Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. To do this, apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.
  • If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 5 minutes before re-lighting it.
Charcoal Grills
  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord rated for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

Use of Swimming Pools

Another popular summer activity, especially for children, is the use of backyard swimming pools. However, according to the American Red Cross, over 200 young children drown in backyard swimming pools each year.

American Red Cross Home Pool Safety Tips:
  • Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access. Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.
  • Keep children under active supervision at all times. Stay in arm’s reach of young kids. Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool—never allow anyone to swim alone. Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses from the Red Cross.
  • Keep your pool or hot tub water clean and clear. Maintain proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration. Regularly test and adjust the chemical levels to minimize the risk of earaches, rashes or more serious diseases.
  • Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as “no diving,” “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”
  • Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross.

So, finally...

By following these safety tips and being attentive, you will have a safe and happy holiday.  Remember, as our old-school adjuster hinted, although you may think that the best stories start with, “Here hold my beer…”, they may not always end so well. So, please drink responsibly & be mindful when grilling, swimming, or lighting fireworks during this Fourth of July holiday. 

From all of us here at EDT, we wish you a safe and happy July 4th celebration!