A gathering by the pool, a backyard barbeque and, at the end of the night, the all-important fireworks show. The Fourth of July is one of our most appreciated and cherished holidays, but the very traditions that make this holiday such a fun event also create serious safety hazards. Fireworks in the hands of untrained amateurs have a breathtaking potential for tragedy and destruction. Large gatherings at pools or other bodies of water can be very dangerous for less experienced swimmers. The dry summer heat increases the likelihood of fire when grilling or cooking outdoors. Swimming, grilling and watching a fireworks display are great Fourth of July activities. With a little planning and forethought, you can do all of these things while celebrating safely.
If you are planning to celebrate the Fourth with fireworks this year, you need to understand the legal and safety issues. First, the vast majority of what we think of as fireworks are illegal to operate in the state of Virginia. Most people know that throughout Virginia any kind of firework that rises into the air and detonates, including motors and Roman candles, are illegal. Less well known is that certain counties actually prohibit the use of all fireworks, including handheld sparklers commonly assumed to be legal. The safest way to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth is to attend a scheduled show and let the professionals handle the explosives.
Another overlooked danger of the Fourth of July is the overcrowding of pools and other bodies of water. Large gatherings and parties can mean a lot of people in the water. Amidst the noise and confusion, it is all too easy for a child to slip under the surface. Unlike in the movies, most drowning victims go under without splashing or yelling. Accordingly, more than half of child drowning victims are within 25 feet of an adult at the time. Keeping a vigilant eye on children whenever they are swimming is essential to prevent catastrophe.
It wouldn’t be the Fourth without burgers from the grill, but large gatherings and the dry conditions of summer create the perfect setting for a fire. Often grills are situated in parks or wooded areas full of dry tinder and far from any means of controlling a spreading fire. You should always have quick access to a fire extinguisher when grilling, and never allow the size of a gathering to push you into grilling a larger volume of food than you are comfortable with. Maintaining a controlled fire, clearing the area of obvious debris and having access to a fire extinguisher allows for a fun – and safe – grilling environment for everyone.
All these dangers are important to consider, but with a little forethought and preparation there is no reason you can’t enjoy all the traditions that make the Fourth of July one of America’s favorite holidays. Stay safe, have fun and enjoy a wonderful holiday with your family and friends.
About the Author: Courtney is a partner and personal injury lawyer with the law firm of Allen & Allen, working primarily out of their Richmond and Short Pump offices. In a career spanning over 20 years, Courtney has handled personal injury cases including catastrophic injury, brain injury, distracted driving accidents and wrongful death across the state of Virginia.