Fireworks are not the only danger on the 4th of July. In fact, there are many other risks to families and their children that are even more prevalent than fireworks on the fourth. This holiday is one of the busiest days of the year for first responders, and it often has to do with dangers that families routinely overlook. Here are some of the hidden dangers on the fourth of July:
Child safety at professional fireworks displays
It’s not the fireworks, but the massive gatherings of crowds, that poses the biggest danger to kids:
- Before going to a fireworks display, have a talk with children ahead of time about how to avoid getting lost, and about what to do if they do end up separated from their parents. It might be a good time to go over stranger danger principles as well. You can read your kids our safety books Lost and How to Get Away from a Stranger.
- Fireworks displays often occur near or over bodies of water, and people gather at dusk for a display that takes place after dark. Throw in the large crowds and plenty of things to distract parents, and you’ve created the perfect incubator for child drowning. So if your family includes younger children who are unable to swim, monitor them closely and try to pick a spot away from the water.
- By far the most menacing danger at fireworks displays is the risk of children being struck by a car. Much like on Halloween, child pedestrian accidents typically spike on the fourth of July, and almost all of it is due to families attending fireworks displays. Large crowds amass in their cars and then park, generally along the street, to watch the show. Families get out and kids run around, while other cars continue to cram the area. You have people setting off fireworks, which not only attract children into the street but can send them running when startled (or when being pursued by a rogue jumping jack or bottle rocket that is headed in their direction). This can also distract drivers. When it’s over, everyone races out of the area to try and get home, while others linger behind or are still gathering their kids. Topping it all off, you have too many adults who have been drinking, who are driving their cars in an area where kids are running around after dark. It’s the perfect storm of child pedestrian dangers. So to keep your kids safe while enjoying the show, consider the following safety precautions:
- Try to pick a place for your family that is away from the street whenever possible. Just remember: parking lots, whether official or improvised, can be just as dangerous as roads when people are backing out.
- If you do park or pick a spot near the road, position your chairs so that you can keep kids away from the street. Sit an adult in a lawn chair between each gap between the cars so that the kids can play while you keep them away from the street and provide a natural barrier against running out in the road.
- Give kids a flashlight to carry around when walking, and use one yourself. This makes them visible to cars after dark. Or if you’re really tenacious, make special 4th of July caps by attaching a flashing bike light with tacky glue to a cheap cap, and have children wear them. Not only will they be visible to cars, but you’ll always be able to spot your child after dark among the crowd.
- Have children hold hands and carry younger ones so that they don’t dart into the street as you’re walking.
Child safety during 4th of July festivities
- Don’t drink while boating! Though it does not get the same attention as drunk driving, boating while drunk is every bit as dangerous.
- Keep a close eye on alcoholic beverages and keep them in a separate area from Kool-Aid or drinks for the kids. Many children suffer alcohol poisoning on the fourth after accidentally drinking a spiked cocktail.
- Stay sober if you’re supervising children. Many accidental deaths occur when a child’s caretakers are intoxicated and not properly watching after their child.
- Be sure to watch all little kids around the water.
Other 4th of July Safety precautions
Check the batteries in your smoke alarms, which you should do twice a year, once on the fourth and once around the winter holiday season. Home fires spike around the 4th of July. If someone’s bottle rocket or spent casing lights your roof on fire in the middle of the night, your smoke detectors are your primary defense.
This should go without saying, but do not shoot your gun in the air for celebration. Every year around the world, hundreds of people are killed by stray bullets fired in celebration. Many other people, including numerous kids, suffer nasty gashes on their head from a bullet in freefall. Don’t ruin their fourth with your careless gun use.