Where there are fireworks and hot grills, there's always the possibility of burns.
"We see a wide range of injuries, from smaller burns to large traumas," said Dr. Michael Van Vliet, the medical director of the burn center. "Most of them are preventable." Dr. Van Vliet has a host of tips aimed at making Independence Day safer.
Remember, in Florida, only sparklers and a handful of other small items are allowed under state law. While those may sound safe, they are not, he said. All fireworks can be very dangerous, especially for children.
"You should hire a professional to handle your fireworks show," he said. "But if that's not an option, establish a zone for the designated 'shooter' that is off limits to children."
Other safety precautions include:
- Ensure a fire extinguisher, hose or bucket of water is nearby.
- Make sure the "shooter" is sober, not wearing loose clothing that could ignite, and follows all directions on the fireworks label.
- If the device does not have a warning and/or instructions label, do not fire it.
- Never use fireworks of any kind indoors.
- Light fireworks one at a time.
- Never throw fireworks. A malfunctioning fuse could cause the item to go off in your hand.
- Never light fireworks held in someone's hand.
- Never stand over an item that does not fire.
Remember that fireworks, especially sparklers and smaller items that stay on the ground, are still very hot, and therefore dangerous, after they have been used.
Staying safe should also extend to the grilling area, and it starts before the grill is lit. Dr. Van Vliet recommends checking the connections of the gas lines to ensure there are no leaks. The best way to check for leaks is to spray soapy water on gas line connections. If you see water bubbles, there is a leak.
When you are ready to light the grill, make sure to keep the lid open. Never use gasoline to help fuel the fire, something Dr. Van Vliet said can cause an explosion and severe burns.
Other grilling tips include:
- Use grills only in properly ventilated areas, as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fires increases if grilling in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Do not use an accelerant, such as gasoline, to light a grill, campfire or debris pile. Gas fumes can ignite and cause a large explosion.
- Dispose of hot coals properly: Soak with water, then stir and soak again to make sure the fire is out.
- Always shut off the propane tank valve when not in use.
- Never try to light a gas grill with the lid closed.
- Always wear short sleeves and/or tight-fitting clothing while grilling.
- Use utensils with long handles to stay clear of hot surfaces.
There's one more thing to make sure stays safe for Independence Day: your skin. Dr. Van Vliet recommends using a sweatproof, broad-spectrum sunscreen (which protects against both UVA and UVB rays) with at least an SPF of 35. The sunscreen should be reapplied every 30 minutes or anytime you have been in the water, just in case the sunscreen gets washed off.