42275281 © Michael Shake | Dreamstime
Photo 42275281 © Michael Shake | Dreamstime

How to Stay Safe This July 4

July 3, 2024
Independence Day is a time to celebrate our nation's founding. Here are tips to stay safe on the roads, at cookouts and while watching the fireworks.

July 4 is a day to celebrate our nation’s founding, but it’s also a day (or weekend) full of potential safety hazards.

Let’s consider a few.


Road Safety

AAA predicts that about 71 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home between June 29 and July 7. Of those, 60.6 million will travel by car and 5.7 million will fly, an all-time high.

“With summer vacations in full swing and the flexibility of remote work, more Americans are taking extended trips around Independence Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel in a press release. “We anticipate this July 4th week will be the busiest ever with an additional 5.7 million people traveling compared to 2019.”

The worst traffic delays in large metro areas are expected on July 3 and July 7, according to transportation analytics software company INRIX.


Food Safety

Now, let’s say you’re hosting (or headed to) a cookout. You want to make sure you enjoy your food—and that it doesn’t make you, or anyone else, ill. Whether you’re prepping pasta salad or the whole shebang, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends some food safety practices:

  • Clean hands and surfaces often
  • Avoid cross-contamination by separating raw meats from other foods, surfaces and utensils
  • Cook food to safe minimum internal temperatures using food thermometers
  • Avoid the "danger zone" by keeping hot foods hot (above 140 degrees Fahrenheit) and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) using ice baths or warming trays, respectively.

Fireworks Safety

Let’s say the sun is setting. Now, it’s time to light up the sky.

Many people enjoy the bursts of light and booms of sounds of fireworks, but it’s important to remember that they can be a trigger for some. For some veterans, fireworks bring back memories of combat, explosions, intense fires or gun violence.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has explains the connection between fireworks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you are a veteran, the most important thing to remember is that you will not be in a threatening situation this weekend. If you will be with a veteran this weekend, the VA offers these are suggestions on how to help them in the moment:

  • Ask them if there is anything you can do
  • Offer words of support and encouragement, such as “I am here with you”
  • Help the person remember the present environment: “You are at a [party, concert, etc.] and it is safe here.”
  • Offer to practice a breathing or mindfulness activity.

Fireworks can also scare our animals. The Humane Society of the United States recommends keeping your pets safely indoors and turning up a radio or TV to drown out the noise. If you’re unable to leave your pet unattended at home, keep them leashed and under your direct control at all times. Animals may become so frightened by the sounds, sights and environment that they run away and get lost or hurt.

If you decide to light off legal fireworks in your own backyard, the National Safety Council has some safety tips, including:

  • Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear
  • Only light one firework at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting
  • Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
  • Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding

While far from comprehensive, the editors of EHS Today hope these tips help you, your loved ones, your friends and your pets stay safe this Independence Day.

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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