Nothing says Fourth of July like fireworks, barbecues and boating, but for some the day can result in a trip to the emergency room if necessary precautions aren’t taken.
Sparklers and similar non-explosive fireworks are legal in Georgia. However, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens urges caution to avoid injuries.
As many as three-fourths of all fireworks injuries each year occur during the four weeks around the Fourth of July, according to a bulletin from the Insurance and Safety Fire Office.
An estimated 7,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for fireworks-related injuries, and most of those involve children, according to the office.
Georgia law prohibits the sale and use of most types of fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs. Individuals caught can be fined up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.
For those who will be barbecuing over the holiday, it is important to make sure food is fully cooked and leftovers are stored properly.
The University System of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service suggests refrigerating any food you don’t intend to cook immediately.
“Only take what you can use,” stressed Betty English, the Family Consumer Sciences agent for Columbia and Richmond counties. “Any leftovers need to be in a constant 40-degree Fahrenheit cooler. Food needs to be in a 40-degree cooler within two hours after the meal is finished. On a hot day, this need is even less time.”
For those who will be grilling away from home, use separate coolers to store uncooked meat and ice that will be used for consumption.
“Ice is considered to be a food and can become contaminated. Having more than two coolers can eliminate this problem,” English said.
English stressed the need for using a food thermometer.
“The only way to check for doneness is with a thermometer,” said English. “Mashing a burger with a spatula can be a false positive, meaning that even if the juices run clear, it can still be undercooked.”
Individuals who will be out on the lake during the Fourth of July holiday need to know that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will have officers out on patrol.
The DNR urges boaters to wear a life jacket, boat sober and stay alert for maximum safety.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit, but do not let the excitement of being out on the water deter you from your responsibility,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Weavers. “Be alert and prepared for the safety of your passengers and for others on the water.”
The law requires that children under the age of 10 wear a life jacket on board a moving boat, but it’s recommended that everyone onboard wear a life jacket.
There have been 54 boating incidents in Georgia so far this year, with 22 injuries and five fatalities. There have been 17 drownings on public waters and 63 boating under the influence citations issued, according to the DNR.