LINCOLN – Grilling, lounging by the water, watching fireworks into the night; no matter how you celebrate Independence Day, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services wants to share these safety tips.
Fireworks are meant to be enjoyed, but they can also be dangerous. The Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office reports 120 people suffered fireworks-related injuries in Nebraska during the 2018 Independence holiday season.
Enjoy consumer fireworks safely by following these tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Always have a responsible adult supervise fireworks activities. Recognize the danger of sparklers to young children. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing and cause severe burns.
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back up to a safe distance.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishaps.
- After fireworks complete their burning, soak them with plenty of water from a bucket or hose.
- Never shoot off fireworks in metal or glass containers.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
If you’re viewing a public fireworks display, maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet between households at these events and other celebrations to help limit exposure and spread of COVID-19.
Grilling and Gathering Safety
Firing up the grill is an easy and popular way to feed guests on Independence Day. In addition to grilling safely, also consider safety precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones from spreading COVID-19 during a gathering or cook-out.
Many people mistakenly believe the color of the inside of their burger–whether it’s pink or brown–lets them know if it is safe to eat. It’s a bit more complicated than that. Studies from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that one out of every four hamburgers turns brown before it reaches a safe internal temperature of 160°F. For that reason, the USDA says using a food thermometer is the only way to make sure cooked meat is safe to eat.
Use a food thermometer and follow these safety tips from the USDA to grill safely:
- Wash your hands and surfaces with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before cooking and after handling raw meat. If cooking outside, pack and use clean cloths and moist towelettes.
- When taking food off of the grill, use clean utensils and platters. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.
- Place a food thermometer in the thickest part to make sure foods are cooked to the right temperature. Remember that hamburgers should be cooked to 160°F. Find safe cooking temperatures for other foods on the USDA website
- Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately. Bring a cooler to store leftovers if you are away from home.
- Don’t leave food out at room temperature for longer than two hours–or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90° F.
If you decide to host a gathering or cook-out, protect yourself from COVID-19 by following these safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Remind invited guests to stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Consider keeping a list of guests who attended for potential future contact tracing needs.
- Host your gathering outdoors, when possible. If inside, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated.
- Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together, but 6 feet of distance should be maintained between households.
- Wear cloth face coverings when less than 6 feet apart from people or indoors.
- Make sure there is adequate soap or hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol available. Remind guests to wash their hands before serving or eating food.
- Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled.
- If serving any food, consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
- Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items. Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between uses when feasible.
On Independence Day, Nebraskans usually beat the hot temperatures by jumping into a pool or lake. While water activities are a fun way to cool off, they have serious risks if proper precautions aren’t taken.
Follow these CDC tips to stay safe in the water:
- Have a responsible adult supervise children swimming or playing in or around water.
- Always have children swim with a buddy. No matter how strong a swimmer you are, never swim alone.
- When possible, select swimming sites that have lifeguards.
- When boating or for young children in the water, always use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
- Only dive in areas known to be safe. Check the water’s depth before you leap and make sure there are no hidden rocks or other hazards. Always jump in feet first into cloudy lakes.
- Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). According to the CDC, in the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.
- Air-filled or foam toys are not safety devices. They are toys, not life jackets. They aren’t designed to keep swimmers safe.
- Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet between different households both in and out of the water.
- Do not wear cloth face coverings in the water. They can make breathing difficult when wet.
Many Nebraskans spend Independence Day outside with friends and family. When you’re enjoying the summer weather, remember to protect yourself from the sun and bug bites.
Follow these safety tips to enjoy your time outdoors:
- Use sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 and has UVA and UVB protection. For the best sun protection, apply sunscreen liberally 15 minutes before you go outdoors and reapply it approximately every two hours throughout the day, or after swimming.
- Use bug spray. EPA-registered repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone provide longer-lasting protection.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Studies have shown that some mosquitoes are more attracted to dark clothing and most can readily bite through tight-fitting clothing.
- Do frequent tick checks after being outdoors.
- Drink lots of water and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Avoid alcohol and limit drinks with caffeine.
- Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child or pet alone in a car. Keep unoccupied cars locked so kids don’t get in on their own.