Ask the Expert: Summer Fire Safety

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By Donny Gill


Americans look forward to summer vacations, camping, family reunions, picnics and especially our nation’s birthday on the Fourth of July. Summertime, however, also brings fires and injuries due to fireworks and outdoor grills.

Though July 4 has past, kids and adults alike still may be tempted to test out leftover bottle rockets and other fireworks while having the family over for a cookout.  If they do, safety should be their first concern — on both counts.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year nearly 10,000 Americans are injured by fireworks and almost 5,000 are injured by charcoal or wood-burning and propane grill fires. In 2007, 64 percent of fireworks injuries occurred between June 22 and July 22.

Fireworks can turn a joyful celebration into a painful memory when children and adults are injured while using fireworks. Although legal consumer fireworks that comply with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations can be relatively safe, all fireworks are hazardous and can cause injury.

Fireworks are classified as hazardous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Some fireworks, such as illegal firecracker type devices (M-80's, quarter sticks) and professional display fireworks should never be used or handled by consumers due to serious injuries and deaths that can and do occur. Knowing a few fire safety tips and following instructions will help everyone have a safe summer.   Fireworks Safety

  • The best way to enjoy fireworks is to visit public fireworks displays put on by professionals who know how to safely handle fireworks.
  • If you plan to use fireworks, make sure they are legal in your area.
  • Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass.
  • Always have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby. Know how to operate the fire extinguisher properly.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
  • Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a devise does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate it. Put it out with water and dispose of it.
  • Always read the directions and warning labels on fireworks. If a devise is not marked with the contents, direction and a warning label, do not light it.
  • Supervise children around fireworks at all times.

Barbecue Safety

  • Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the tubes - where the air and gas mix - are not blocked.
  • Do not overfill the propane tank.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
  • Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because the flames can flashback up into the container and explode.
  • Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
  • Dispose of hot coals properly - douse them with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
  • Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas - carbon monoxide could be produced.
  • Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 or your local emergency number if a burn warrants serious medical attention.

Campfire Safety

  • Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
  • Keep campfires small, and don't let them get out of hand.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you're done. Stir it and douse it again with water.
  • Never leave campfires unattended.

Please follow these tips to have happy and safe celebrations this summer. 

Donny Gill is a health educator with the Hardin County Health Center. He can be reached at donny.gill@ky.gov.