Celebrate safety on the FourthPublished 9:15pm Monday, July 1, 2013
The best of American holidays is coming up this week, and assumedly most folks in Suffolk will be celebrating them in one way or another.
Unfortunately, July 4 often presents a number of safety challenges as well. Nobody wants a serious injury or death to occur, especially not on a holiday. But a few precautions can help diminish the risk of several of Independence Day’s inherent dangers.
Reporter Matthew Ward reminded us of one of them in his Saturday story, “Boating safety stressed.” Many folks take to the water on their own or friends’ boats to celebrate Independence Day, and many others head to the water’s edge for some beach fun.
The best way to protect yourself in or near the water is to wear a life jacket, no matter how strong of a swimmer you believe you are, according to the National Safe Boating Council. Boaters also should remain sober and alert, obey navigation rules and operate at a safe speed.
Those hitting the beach should beware of rip currents and know what to do in case of one. The National Park Service says not to swim across the current. Rather, swim parallel to the shore and slowly work your way back to the beach at an angle. Other safety tips from the park service include using a life vest, swimming only when lifeguards are on duty, swimming with a buddy, avoiding alcohol before swimming and wearing sunscreen.
With cookouts and fireworks abounding, fire is another big danger on the Fourth. The National Fire Protection Association says more fires are reported in the U.S. than on any other day of the year, and 40 percent are caused by fireworks.
Fireworks other than the two approved displays in downtown and in Eclipse are illegal in Suffolk.
The NFPA has some tips for grill use as well. Cooks should place the grill well away from the home, deck railings and overhanging branches; keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area; keep the grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup; and never leave the grill unattended.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has some tips on food safety for the cookouts. The cook shouldn’t put meat off the grill on the same platter that held the raw meat unless it is washed in between. Meat should be checked with a food thermometer and should not be served until steak, fish and pork reach a temperature of 145 degrees; ground beef and egg dishes reach 160; and chicken breasts and whole poultry reach 165. Shrimp, lobster and crabs should be cooked until pearly and opaque, and clams, oysters and mussels should cook until the shells open. Keep cold dishes cold and do not allow them to sit out for more than one hour.
Finally, don’t drink and drive. It’s just not a good idea any day of the year.