It is America's birthday! The Fourth of July is a patriotic party, but it's important for individuals and families to remember that safety needs to be an invited guest during this time of fun. We detail the top 4th of July safety tips for anyone and everyone who plans to celebrate in their red, white, and blue.
4th of July Parade Safety
Parades are the quintessential start of the Fourth of July holiday! Gathering together with family and friends to watch these spirited displays is always exciting, but there are some surprising dangers to prepare for before you head out to enjoy these star-spangled processions.
Designate a Meeting Area
Big crowds bring a greater concern for your kids wandering off or getting separated from the group. The best way to prepare for this is to designate a safe place to meet. When selecting a spot, make sure it is in a central location that is easy to spot from a low vantage point.
Talk About Stranger Danger
Parades are brimming with excitement - people in costumes, intricately decorated cars, lots of candy, and fun music. All of these things are enticing to young children and while most people mean no harm, there are ugly people in this world. Make sure your kids know who is a safe person to approach if they were to get separated. "Safe helpers" include police officers and firefighters, as well as parade officials. These individuals are normally wearing special shirts for the event or lanyards that have an event logo on the front.
When you arrive at the parade, take the time to find one of these individuals with your child. Talk about how to identify them so that they know what to look for if they get lost.
Use Temporary Tattoos on Young Kids
Unlike regular temporary tattoos, SafetyTats allow parents to have their child's emergency information printed on them at all times. This removes the need for them to memorize a phone number, making them perfect for young toddlers, preschool-aged kids, and children with disabilities.
Consider Matching Outfits
Most of us love the red, white, and blue on Independence Day, but if you have concerns about safety, consider showcasing your patriotism on a neon green or orange backdrop. By choosing bright colors that contrast the 4th of July color palette, it will make it easy for you to spot your kids quickly, as well as for your kids to find you, in a crowded space.
Talk About Areas to Avoid
Before you arrive at the parade site, review some safety basics. Looking both ways, stopping when a car is coming, and staying behind safety barricades all seem like common sense, but the 4th of July brings a lot of excitement and distraction. Once you arrive, ask them to repeat the rules to ensure they understand.
4th of July Fireworks Safety
Most of us can't celebrate Independence Day without a fireworks show! Many families enjoy sparklers and poppers, but even these items can bring safety concerns. Here are the top things to keep in mind when using fireworks.
Check the Forecast & Confirm No Burn Bans are in Place
If you have calm winds, humid conditions, and have seen rain recently, have fun! Fireworks are a breathtaking part of the Fourth of July. However, for those who didn't take an atmospheric science class in school, fire only needs four simple ingredients - low humidity, high winds, a dry fuel, and a spark.
If it hasn't rained in a few weeks, you have a dry fuel in place (the surrounding vegetation). If you have dry and windy weather, it can carry a spark farther than you would think. The forecast matters when handling flammable items.
It is always best to forego the fireworks when:
- Sustained wind speeds are 20 MPH or more
- Wind gusts reach 35 MPH or more
- Relative humidities are lower than 15%
- A drought and/or burn ban is in place in your area
These conditions will trigger a Red Flag Warning or a Fire Weather Watch from the National Weather Service. They issue these when there is a potential for dangerous fire weather to occur. Safety should always be your number one priority, even if it puts a bit of a damper on the fun.
Limit Firework Fun to Adults
Sparklers seem harmless, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission states that children should never play with any type of firework product. Before you call them the fun police, here are some quick stats from 2021:
- 1500 people incurred firework injuries and 1100 incurred sparkler injuries in July of 2021
- 32% of these injuries were burns and over a third of these burns impacted the eyes, ears, face, and head
- There has been a 25% increase in firework injuries between 2006 and 2021
If you choose to let kids use sparklers, closely supervise your kids and set rules for use. For instance, no sword fights with sparklers, do not swing sparklers near other people's faces or throw poppers at anyone, and only play with these items over pavement.
Always Keep at Least Two Water Sources Nearby
If you decide to engage in firework fun, remember that water is your best friend. Make sure you have a prefilled bucket of water and a working hose nearby in case a fire starts. A fire extinguisher is another great choice. As a veteran meteorologist, I can tell you that fires from fireworks happen every single year.
In 2018 alone, the National Fire Protection Association reported that fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires. Those fires resulted in "$105 million in direct property damage" and five deaths.
Be smart and prepare for the worst before you play with fire.
Top Firework Safety Tips:
When conditions are right, fireworks can be a lot of fun! Stay safe by following these fireworks safety guidelines:
- Buy fireworks from a reputable vendor
- Never re-light a dud
- Light fireworks over pavement, sand, stone, or bare dirt - never over grassy areas
- Light fireworks in a clear, open area that is away from buildings
- Phantom Fireworks recommends "a minimum clear distance between the launch site and your audience of 35 feet for fountains and other ground-based items and 150 feet for all aerial items."
- Discard of used fireworks properly
4th of July Water Safety
Another big part of 4th of July safety is being smart when around bodies of water. Pools, lakes, rivers, and even ponds can be dangerous for toddler and preschool-aged kids. Use these quick tips to keep everyone safe.
Wear Life Jackets
If your child has not taken swim lessons, the easiest way to ensure their safety is to have them wear a Coast Guard approved life vest. Unlike puddle jumpers and water wings, these safety accessories are designed to keep your child afloat, even if they are unconscious. When shopping for these items, look for PDFs that are:
- Snug to the chest
- Don't rise above the ears when you pull on the shoulder straps
- Rated for the weight of your child (this will be printed on the inside of the vest)
- Has neck collar supports
Set Up Pool Rules in Advance
Most of us know not to run by the pool, but it's good to remind your kids of this rule, along with the importance of water etiquette. What is water etiquette you may ask?
- Never swim alone - always ask an adult before entering the pool
- No pushing or shoving in or around the pool
- Jump feet first
- Take turns when jumping into the water
- When sitting on the ledge, keep your hands to yourself
- No playing around drains
If swimming is not a part of the itinerary, life jackets are still important for the littler members of your family if you plan to be near the water. Kids trip and fall all the time. Being proactive on a day filled with distraction is key for keeping kids safe!
Other July Safety Topics
Following 4th of July safety tips can better ensure that everyone avoids accidents and has a great time throughout the holiday, but it's also important to remember that it is summer!
Stay Sun Safe
Sun safety matters, especially in hot summer months like July! So, wear sunscreen and reapply often, stay hydrated, and take breaks indoors during peak heating hours!
Don't Keep Food Out for Too Long
Don't forget about outdoor food safety as well. The Fourth of July brings big food spreads, but when left outdoors too long, food can spoil. Serving food items in courses is a great way to prevent things from going bad.
Food can safely stay outside of the fridge for two hours before spoiling. This window drops to one hour when temperatures are 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
Drink Responsibly & Drive Safely
Finally, for adults 21 and over, drink responsibly and secure a designated driver before your celebrations begin. The American Safety Council notes that "July 4th is the most dangerous and deadliest day to drive."
This is not just due to drunk driving, but also because more people are on the road and many pets get out when they hear fireworks and then dart into oncoming traffic. Planning your ride in advance, taking it slow if you are a designated driver, and watching out for surprises on the road can help to keep you safe.
Stay Safe This Holiday
The best way to stay safe over Independence Day is to plan ahead! By following these simple tips, you can better guarantee a great Fourth of July. So, be proactive, stay safe, have fun, and think of others this holiday.