Build safety into summer fun

By Monica Bullock, Student Editor, U.S. Army Public Health CommandJuly 1, 2014

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Summer is finally here once again! It's time to whip out the shorts and spatulas and enjoy the warm sunshine. However, summer fun could be hindered by unintentional accidents if people do not make safety a priority.

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, 9,300 serious injuries and four deaths occur every year from firework accidents. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that from 2005 to 2009, the number of drownings in boating-related accidents was 347. The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association has even estimated that barbecue grill accidents send nearly 18,000 people to the emergency room and cause more than 6,000 fires and more than six fatalities annually. To prevent such unfortunate events, here are some valuable safety tips to help keep Soldiers and civilians healthy and out of harm's way while still enjoying a relaxing summer vacation.

Fireworks Safety

Nothing is quite as spectacular as the patriotic boom of fireworks overhead and the kaleidoscope of fiery colors glittering down in unique patterns. But stray too close and you may end up lacking an appendage or two.

"Children--especially those under the age of 12--must never play with or ignite fireworks," according to Roy Valiant, U.S. Army Public Health Command safety manager.

Better yet, "For ultimate safety, go to a fireworks show instead of using them yourself," USAPHC safety intern Earl Whitley adds.

If you do decide to light fireworks yourself, follow these tips for using them in a safe and responsible manner:

•Before using fireworks, check the legality of their use in your area.

•Set fireworks off in an open area clear of debris and tall grass. If you are launching bottle rockets, be sure their landing zone is also clear.

•Always wear safety glasses.

•Light the fireworks one at a time, and then move back to a safe distance as quickly as possible.

•Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that turn out to be "duds."

•Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, so be sure to douse them in a bucket of water before throwing them away. The same goes for post-firework devices, to prevent trash fires.

•Always have a garden hose nearby in case of emergencies.

Water Safety

It always feels refreshing to plunge into turquoise pools, deep lakes and the crashing waves of beaches when your skin gets a little too sun-kissed. Whitley, who enjoys fishing and canoeing in the summer, advises when at the beach to "research your area to know when high tide rolls in, and if you get caught in riptide do not try to fight it--swim parallel to the shore."

Additionally, Valiant cautions individuals to "drink responsibly in all water sports, whether in the boat or on the water."

Here are some additional tips to be safe near the water:

•Always be cautious when dealing with deep waters and ensure that everyone can swim or uses floatation devices, especially children.

•Always check to see if there is a lifeguard or a form of supervision present. If you want to walk or run on the beach, always wear shoes to protect your feet from hot sand and critters or shells with sharp edges.

•Constantly hydrate yourself and reapply sunscreen!

Grill Safety

Who doesn't love the savory smell of juicy burger patties and skewered kabobs steaming on the grill? If you safely prepare and cook your backyard barbecues, you won't have to worry about your delectable dinner going rancid or even up in flames.

Valiant, who enjoys beaching, golfing and a good barbecue himself during the summer, says, "Never start a charcoal grill with gasoline; you would be surprised how many people do." If you use starter fluid, only use charcoal starter fluid and light it with a long-necked lighter, not matches.

Additionally, Whitley advises, "Remember to replace the hoses in a propane grill annually."

Here are some additional tips for grilling in a safe manner:

•Keep the cold food cold and the hot food hot. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration counsels to never allow meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, produce or any other refrigerated foods to sit at room temperature for more than two hours.

•Check your grill often. The National Fire Protection Association has this to say about propane grills: "Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill."

•Safely dispose of charcoal. When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing them in a metal container.

Related Links:

U.S. Army Public Health Command

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

U.S. Army Safety Center