Blanket  4th of July celebrations in sizzle, sparkle, and safety

“The United States is the only country with a known birthday,” observed James G. Blaine, a Maine congressional representative from 1863 – 1876 who also twice served as Secretary of State. As a nation, we throw a pretty big party each summer to celebrate. Small towns and big cites alike pull out all the stops to commemorate the day with razzle-dazzle. Want to keep it safe? One idea that comes up again and again is “leave fireworks to the professionals.”

However, if home fireworks are legal in your area, and you and yours participate, here are some additional reminders:

  • if a device does not go off, do not stand over it to see what the problem is
  • never relight a device that didn’t go off
  • light them one at a time and step back as soon as lit
  • keep a bucket of water on hand for spent sparklers and other hot materials

Indianapolis TV station WTHR posted “Fireworks Safety Tips for the Fourth of July” this week and quoted Capt. Mike Pruitt with the Wayne Township Fire Department. He said, "You want to make sure you're not doing this around any structures, any combustibles that would catch on fire easily," adding that a slab of concrete works well as a launch pad. Pruitt, when he was young, learned first-hand one of the lesser considered dangers of fireworks: hearing loss. He says, “As a child, I actually had fireworks like this and I held on to them, the [sic] went off, and now I have a hearing deficiency because of that."

Last July Newsweek reported that according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety there are “an average 230 fireworks-related injuries near and on the 4th of July.” The article noted that “The vast majority of injuries are burns, primarily to the hands, fingers, head, face, eyes and ears.” Perhaps especially surprising is that sparklers and firecrackers “account for almost 40 percent of all fireworks related accidents.” Consider glow sticks as fun, safe, colorful alternative to sparklers that can reach 1200 degrees.

Of course, the holiday takes families to parks and beaches, and fireworks are not the only danger. In 2013 the American Red Cross published 4th of July safety tips, which included excellent safety reminders for grilling, sun protection, and beaches/swimming. Also make sure your family has discussed a plan of action if you become separated in a crowd and that all family members know to avoid strangers’ offers of assistance, even if they claim to know where Mom and Dad are.

Little ones afraid of big booms? Or maybe you’re just not feeling it this year when it comes to finding a parking space, hauling the gear, and joining the fray? Consider pouring a tall glass of lemonade for the kids, chilling out, and watching the big fireworks shows in Washington D.C. and New York city on TV. And since it is, after all, a birthday party for the U.S., what better time to learn about the 50 states than by getting the whole family playing State of Confusion.

Whether at home with family or finding fellowship with community, a little thought, care, and planning can go a long way in making all the moments and memories good ones.