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Celebrate Safely on Fourth of July

Jul 01, 2015 | General

One of Alabama’s most extravagant Fourth of July fireworks celebrations for decades will light up the skies again this year. Thunder on the Mountain is set for Independence Day at 9 p.m. over Birmingham’s iron man, Vulcan, featuring a mixture of fireworks combined with patriotic and popular music.

It could be the culmination to a perfect day honoring America’s Declaration of Independence, one filled with family gatherings, barbecue cookouts, swimming and boating and, of course, plenty of safety precautions.

While celebrating the nation’s birthday should be the focal point of the Fourth of July, avoiding accidents associated with the holiday’s festivities should be a priority as well.

This is one of the most dangerous times of the year across the nation so it’s important to celebrate responsibly.

Road Tragedy

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report analyzing vehicular deaths from 1975 to 2002 found the Fourth of July period was the deadliest time for travel in the country. Some 4,250 car-crash fatalities were reported on the July 3rd and 4th-time frame during those years.

If you plan to travel this Fourth of July weekend, make a plan.

  • Know your route and use maps or a GPS so you don’t get lost.
  • Have your vehicle checked before leaving to make sure tires are properly inflated and all fluid levels are correct.
  • Take plenty of snacks and water in case of an emergency.

Fireworks Risks

The state of Alabama generally permits the sale of some types of consumer fireworks by seasonal retailers during fireworks season around the Fourth of July holiday. Some communities have local ordinances that limit the shooting of fireworks so it’s best to check with your local government.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission notes in a 2012 report that legal and illegal fireworks are life threatening and can cause eye injuries, loss of arms and legs and death. The agency reports six men were killed by fireworks that year and an estimated 8,700 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries.

The danger is most significant over the Fourth of July. More than 5,000 people were treated at emergency rooms for fireworks injuries during the month-long time frame surrounding Independence Day. More than 50 percent of those dealt with burned hands, head or face. Roughly 1,000 cases involved sparklers and bottle rockets, which aren’t safe for children to use.

In its report for 2013, the agency found eight fireworks-related deaths and an average of 240 people went to the emergency room each day for treatment of fireworks injuries around July 4th. Oddly enough, the age group of 25-44 made up 33 percent of the injuries, but 40 percent of those hurt were 14 and under.

The agency encourages consumers to follow these safety tips when using fireworks.

  • Make certain the fireworks you purchase are legal.
  • Don’t allow young children to use fireworks, including sparklers, which burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees.
  • Make sure an adult is supervising older children who are allowed to handle fireworks.
  • Don’t buy fireworks that come in brown paper, a sign they were made for professional displays and could be dangerous to consumers.
  • Do not put any part of your body directly over fireworks when lighting them. Step back a safe distance immediately after igniting them.
  • Fill up a bucket of water or keep a hose nearby to put out a fire.
  • Don’t try to relight or handle fireworks that malfunction. Soak them in water and dispose of them.
  • Do not point or throw fireworks at people.
  • Light one firework at a time and move away.
  • After lighting fireworks, douse the spent device before throwing it away.
  • Report illegal fireworks to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662).

On the Water

Many people spend the Fourth of July holiday boating or near the water. There were 560 boating fatalities in 2013, according to the National Safe Boating Council.

But considering boating-related deaths can often be averted by better safety precautions, improvement can be made. The main contributing factors to boating fatalities for 2013 were alcohol use, hazardous waters, weather, operator inattention and operator inexperience, the council reports.

With those in mind, boaters should:

  • Make sure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket.
  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol.
  • Put an experienced operator at the helm.
  • Keep an eye out for other boaters to avoid collisions.
  • Stay out of water appearing to be dangerous.
  • Check the weather before going on a boating expedition to make sure storms aren’t in the forecast.

Grilling Safety

Of course, no Fourth of July get-together is complete without grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, or even a pig. But grills can cause burn injuries. Follow these tips offered by the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Use propane and charcoal grills outdoors only.
  • Put the grill away from the home, deck railings and overhanging branches. Avoid grilling on an apartment deck because it could ignite the ceiling.
  • Make sure children and pets are clear of the grilling area.
  • Clean the grill by removing grease or fat buildup.
  • Don’t leave the grill unattended.
  • Check gas grills for leaks before using them.
  • If using a charcoal grill, using only charcoal starter fluid.
  • Keep charcoal and starter fluid away from children.

The Fourth of July is our nation’s birthday— a day that changed the world and is one of our proudest moments as Americans. We can take pride in observing the day our Founding Fathers declared our freedom. But before celebrating, take a moment to put safety first to avoid accidents and injuries, and we’ll see you at Thunder on the Mountain.