A Fourth to be reckoned with

By Marissa Bond

The Las Cruces Bulletin

The Fourth of July is here, and the ways we celebrate the nation’s independence involve fire — sun, barbeque and fireworks. However, to make the proverbial prosaically literal, if you play with fire, you might get burned. Enjoy your Independence Day, but be cautious so you can keep celebrating and stay out of the emergency room.

More than a red glare

According to a nationwide study conducted in 2012 by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), on average, more than 200 Americans went to the emergency room daily between June 22 and July 22 with firework-related injuries. More than half of those injuries were burns, most of them on the hands and fingers.

The Department of Health and the CPSC issued the following recommendations: • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Too often parents don’t realize the risk until too late. Sparklers, for example, burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees — hot enough to melt some metals.

• Make sure you, your kids and others watch fireworks displays from a safe distance.

• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

• Keep a garden hose or water bucket handy in case of fire or other mishap.

• Never try to re-light or pick up a firework that failed to go off. If a firework doesn’t fully ignite the first time, it is unlikely the second attempt will be successful. Meanwhile, you put yourself at risk should the firework explode in your hand.

• Light fireworks one at a time. While it might be tempting to try to have a more extravagant explosion, it hurts the chances of the one with the match getting away in time.

The American Red Cross recommends the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals, and to stay at least 500 feet away from the show.

More than just personal safety, using fireworks responsibly protects the safety of your property and that of your neighbors. Even though we’ve had some rain, the valley is still in drought, and so it is important the spectacle stays in the sky and away from dry brush or homes.

The city recommends discharging fireworks only in barren or paved lands, away from brush, timber or grass, and a with a water source nearby and readily accessible. Certain types of fireworks are prohibited in Las Cruces, including aerial spinners, helicopters, mines, missile- type rockets, Roman candles, shells, sticktype rockets, chasers and firecrackers.

The Las Cruces Police Department advise celebrants that fireworks purchased outside of city limits may be prohibited in Las Cruces, so in order to avoid a fine, it is wise to possess and discharge fireworks only in the jurisdiction where they were purchased.

Here comes the sun

Though the spectacle may begin after dark, celebrants usually fire up the barbeque much earlier, and the young, young-at-heart and merely hot will crowd poolsides and sprinkler systems. Even though the water may cool you, remember to apply sunscreen, drink water and take time in the shade so as to neither sunburn nor overheat.

Sunscreen, applied once, will not protect you all day – it should be reapplied multiple times. Wide-brimmed hats will help protect your eyes as well as your skin from too much sun.

Drink water throughout the day in order to stay hydrated. Be careful with caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. While these may quench your thirst, they can dehydrate you.

Too much exposure to heat and sun can lead to heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms to watch out for include fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, nausea, dizziness, extreme headache, rapid pulse, vomiting, confusion and seizures.

The heat can be a danger for dining, too. Hot weather reduces the amount of time that foods can be left out without spoilage. Have a food thermometer handy, and put food away or toss out dishes that have been sitting too long.

Grill we meat again

Before grilling, wipe down the grill with a wet cloth to catch any grill bristles that might have gotten caught on the grill surface. A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saw six cases between March 2011 and June 2012 in Rhode Island alone of people who had ingested wire bristles.

Never leave the grill unsupervised. Not only will close attention ensure the burgers come out juicy and the hot dogs uncharred, but it will help prevent fires and injury.

Never use a grill in an enclosed area, such as a house, camper or tent. Burning charcoal releases carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that, in enclosed spaces can lead to hospitalization or death. According to a CPSC report, 20 deaths and 400 hospitalizations annually result from using a charcoal grill indoors.

Be safe with lighter fluid when grilling. Avoid lighter fluid or choose one labeled as safe for use with charcoal. Some lighter fluids are toxic, leaving more behind than chemical taste coating your food. To prevent serious injury, don’t add more lighter fluid once the grill has been lit, and never use lighter fluid with a gas grill.

Like fireworks, it is wise to keep a fire extinguisher, sand bucket or water source handy. Burning embers or hot ash can become airborne or fall out of the draft holes, starting fires where they land. Likewise, unattended food can catch on fire and quickly spread from the grill to grass, trees or buildings. If the grill catches fire, close the lid if you can do so safely and let the fire burn out. Marissa Bond can be reached at 680-1845 or marissa@lascrucesbulletin. com.


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