Fourth of July can be fun, safe at home
By Courtney Coufal
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many Mississippians will celebrate this Fourth of July at home, as high fuel prices cut into budgets, but they still can have a safe and memorable holiday weekend.
A survey conducted by Travelzoo.com revealed that six in 10 Americans feel it would be easier to host a large barbecue gathering during the holiday weekend than to find an affordable airline ticket.
While many people will fire-up the grill this Fourth of July, there are many other appropriate and fairly affordable activities families can do instead of traveling, said Tabitha Staier, family education and policy specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
“Make ice cream, play baseball or catch, have a picnic, go to the park, go fishing or swimming, play a board game, make dessert together or host a backyard gathering,” Staier said.
Many families are always on-the-go, and friends use technology to keep in touch. Staier said this weekend would allow people to slow down, relax and reconnect.
“These days, families live together but rarely do things together. Many children are involved in numerous activities, such as sports, dance, music lessons and school activities. As a result, family members are pulled in different directions and rarely spend quality time together during a normal week,” Staier said. “Staying home for the Fourth can give families a chance to reconnect, and friends and neighbors a chance to sit down, relax and visit together.”
To keep the Fourth as relaxing as possible, remain responsible while celebrating to avoid injuries and accidents common this time of year.
Ted Gordon, Extension safety specialist at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, warned that fireworks and summertime activities can be dangerous if people are not careful.
“People should be aware of dangers that can happen. Adults especially need to help their children and grandchildren have a safe Fourth of July outdoors,” Gordon said.
Gordon offered several tips to help keep Independence Day free of injuries.
Ultraviolet A, or UVA, and ultraviolet B, or UBV, rays can be harmful if people do not protect their skin while working and playing outside.
“The sun puts people at risk for skin cancer and premature aging. Regular use of sunscreen can reduce the risk of cancer by almost 78 percent,” Gordon said.
He recommended limiting sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when rays are the strongest, wearing a hat, good sunglasses and other protective clothing, and wearing plenty of sunscreen. He also advised:
- Wear a sunscreen that contains UVA and UVB protection and that has a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 15 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen about 30 to 45 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or sooner, if in the water.
- Consider using sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide, which physically blocks the sun's radiation. This is especially good for children with light and sensitive skin.
- The insect repellant DEET lowers the effectiveness of sunscreens, so use a product with a higher SPF, especially if buying a product that combines sunscreen and insect repellant.
When cooking outdoors, protect the cook and nearby structures from burns and fires.
“Whether cooking with charcoal or propane, always cook outdoors where ventilation is plentiful, away from siding, deck rails and out from under eaves and low-hanging branches,” he said. “The cook should use long-handled grill tools to stay protected from heat, smoke and flames. Keep children and pets away from grills, and keep grills away from walk areas.”
Gordon also recommended these tips for preparing, using and maintaining the grill:
- Check and clean fat-collection trays periodically to avoid igniting old grease.
- Use only good quality charcoal lighter fluid and store it in a place away from children and heat. Do not use other flammable liquids.
- When using a charcoal grill, apply starter fluid directly to the coals, close the container and move away. Light the coals slowly and carefully, avoiding a flame-up.
- When using a propane grill, apply a mixture of water and soap to the hoses and connections to check for leaks.
- Periodically replace briquettes, and use a fine bristle brush to clean the burner to ensure an even flame.
- After cooking is finished, continue to watch the grill as it cools. If using propane, double check that the values are off to avoid gas escaping.
Gordon stressed the importance of never leaving children unsupervised around swimming pools and other bodies of water, regardless of their swimming ability. Teach children to swim and warn them about playing in fast moving waters.
He also recommended:
- Childproof pool areas with fencing at least 4 feet high and a gate with a self-latching lock.
- Take time to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and have a phone near the pool area.
- Always wear a safety-approved life jacket when boating, skiing, jet skiing or tubing on lakes, ponds, rivers or oceans.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urges consumers to leave fireworks to the professional. However, Gordon said fireworks seem to be a fixture in most southern states.
“Fireworks can turn a good cookout or a party into a nightmare,” Gordon said. “If you choose to use them at home, never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks, and follow the directions as written on the package.”
Gordon also urged consumers to:
- Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Ignite fireworks on a flat surface away from the house, dry leaves or other flammable materials.
- Never try to re-light fireworks that have not fully functioned.
- Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction or fire.
Released: June 26, 2008
Contact: Tabitha Staier (662) 325-0594 or Ted Gordon (662) 566-2202