Memorial Day might be the unofficial start of summer, but Independence Day is when the season truly kicks into high gear. July 4 is a holiday that has something for everyone, whether you like to host (or attend) backyard barbecues, get out on the water or just hang out at home and watch the “bombs” bursting in air once the sun sets.
As you celebrate America this year, however, keep safety in mind — those fireworks aren’t the only holiday staple that can be dangerous. So, along with using plenty of sunblock and staying hydrated, follow these tips to help ensure that you, your loved ones and your friends all have a great Fourth.
Food Safety Whether you’re hosting a gathering or attending one, you’ll want to make sure the food you’re serving — and eating — is safe. The following U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines can help:
- Cook food thoroughly. Steaks, chops and roasts (beef, pork or lamb) should have a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit before being removed from the heat source. Ground meats need to be at 160 degrees and poultry at 165.
- Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. You can keep cooked meats warm by placing them to the side of the grill rack, in a warm oven or in a chafing dish. Place dishes holding cold foods on ice.
- Bringing food to the party? Use an insulated cooler with ice or ice packs to minimize the growth of bacteria.
On the Road According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the July 4 holiday period ranks as the nation’s deadliest in terms of people killed by drunk drivers. So, if you’re heading somewhere to enjoy the fireworks or just driving to a friend’s get-together, plan ahead: Have a designated driver or don’t drink at all.
On the Water Spending the holiday on a boat? Lucky you. Just make sure all equipment is operating properly and that you have the right supplies on board. Here are two more recommendations from the Coast Guard:
- If you’re driving the boat, don’t drink or use drugs. That should go without saying, but it’s still a problem — alcohol use is involved in about a third of all recreational boating deaths.
- Everyone needs a life jacket. A boat needs a Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard. Kids need their own — adult-sized jackets will not work for them.
Fireworks Thousands of people are hurt each year by fireworks. In the month around the July 4 holiday, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 240 people go to the emergency room daily with a fireworks-related injury. Don’t be one of them. If fireworks are legal in your area and you intend to set some off (or to be around when others are doing so), check out these quick tips for some general guidelines:
- Find a safe place, and be prepared. Always have a bucket of water or a garden hose at the ready. And never point fireworks at a person, animal, home, tree or car.
- Make sure adults are present. Kids should never play with fireworks.
- Don’t stand too close. The most injured body parts in fireworks accidents are the hands and fingers (36 percent), head, face and ears (22 percent) and eyes (16 percent), the commission says. All are pretty important, don’t you think?
While these tips are great, perhaps the best thing about them is this: You can follow them and still have a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Here’s to America — and to you!