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Safety first: Expert urges caution during holiday weekend

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Nineteen-year-old Conicia Devine checks out the fireworks at the TNT tent in the parking lot in front of Kmart on Turner Lake Road. Only non-exploding fireworks can be sold and detonated by individuals in Georgia. The sale of the fireworks is a fundraiser for Atlanta Area Technical Cosmetology School.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Nineteen-year-old Conicia Devine checks out the fireworks at the TNT tent in the parking lot in front of Kmart on Turner Lake Road. Only non-exploding fireworks can be sold and detonated by individuals in Georgia. The sale of the fireworks is a fundraiser for Atlanta Area Technical Cosmetology School.

COVINGTON -- While the Fourth of July is a glorious American tradition, it is often a time when injuries occur due to increased risks associated with the celebration.

There will be no shortage of free fireworks displays for the residents of Newton and Rockdale counties to enjoy, and professionals are cautioning that viewing those displays is a much safer choice than using fireworks yourself.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens reminds residents that the sale and use of most types of fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs is still illegal in Georgia and using them is punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

Sparklers and similar non-explosive fireworks are legal in Georgia, but are still capable of causing serious injury. Approximately 7,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for fireworks-related injuries. Most of the incidents involve children and most occur in the weeks surrounding July 4.

Hudgens offers the following safety tips:

  • Always read and follow label directions
  • Only use fireworks outdoors
  • Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks
  • Light only one fireworks at a time
  • Never allow children to use fireworks alone, but always have close adult supervision
  • Be sure to have water handy
  • Never throw fireworks at another person
  • Never hesitate to call 911 in case of an emergency

Heading to the lake or the pool is another favorite Fourth of July activity. Each year more than 800 children drown in the U.S., and according to Safe Kids USA, these children had at least five things in common which contributed to the tragedy.

  1. Weak or no supervision

According to the Safe Kids USA website, children drown quickly and silently in a matter of seconds. Often those adults present were distracted -- talking on the phone, chatting with others or reading.

They urge that children be actively supervised when around water and there should always be a phone handy in case of emergency.

  1. No barriers

Curious children, especially those younger than 4, can easily find and fall into bodies of water like pools, tubs and even buckets.

Never leave a child alone around a body of water, even if it's only a few inches deep.

Pool owners should make sure their pool is enclosed by a fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate.

Hot tubs should be locked when not in use.

  1. Weak or no CPR skills

Drowning victims need CPR immediately -- before paramedics arrive. It can prevent brain damage and be the difference between life and death.

Parents and those entrusted with the safety of children should become certified. Contact the health department, area hospitals or the American Red Cross for a course schedule.

  1. Weak or no swimming ability

Children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be at risk of drowning. Minority children have especially low rates of swimming ability and high rates of drowning.

Children should be enrolled in swimming classes. Information can be obtained through area recreation departments or the YMCA.

  1. Lack of life jacket use

Nearly 5,000 boating accidents occur each year in open waters and more than 700 people drown as a result. Of those who drown, nine out of 10 are not wearing a life jacket. Also, alcohol use is a contributing factor in one of five of the deaths.

Children should wear a life jacket every time they walk on a dock or get on a boat.

And, what Fourth of July celebration would be complete without good food, and that often means bringing out the grill.

Each year property is lost and both children and adults are injured from careless use of grills. Here are a few tips to avoid grilling catastrophes:

  • Grills should only be used outdoors and at least 10 feet away from a house or other structure.
  • Do not use a grill in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch or any surface that can catch fire. If using a grill on a deck, make sure it is a safe distance from railings and out from under eaves.
  • Keep children and pets at least 3 feet from the grill.
  • Remove grease and fat buildup from the grill and the trays below the grill.
  • Never leave a grill unattended.
  • Keep lighted cigarettes, matches or open flames away from the grill.

Charcoal grills

  • Use only charcoal starter fluid and never add the fluid or any other flammable liquids to a lit fire.
  • Never burn inside a home or other enclosed area.
  • When finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing of them in a metal container.

Gas grills

  • Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks
  • If a leak is detected, do not use grill until it is repaired.