While in the midst of the Fourth of July season, it's easy to imagine what the quintessential activities associated with it would be: grilling and other "flammable" outdoor fun.
But, as an even more critical part of the 101 Critical Days of Summer, the midsummer days present their own challenges to safety with barbecues and some risky outdoor activities. Many preventable mishaps impact service members' operational readiness during this time.
Starting with grilling, according to the Naval Safety Center (NSC), while thankfully there have been no fatalities resulting from grilling accidents from fiscal year 2007-2011, there have been 49 mishaps involving Sailors and Marines. The victims of these mishaps spent nearly 80 days in the hospital, losing 384 work days, and spending 470 days on light duty.
The emphasis on these statistics, according to NSC, is that many of them could be easily prevented. From a presentation on grilling safety by NSC, here are two case reports on how accidents occurred: one incident involved someone who used gasoline to help ignite the grill. It exploded and burned him from his waist to his neck and arms. In another incident, this time involving a gas grill, the electric spark igniter didn't work. Gas was allowed to flow for approximately 30 seconds and the mishap victim used a cigarette lighter to start the grill resulting in an explosion.
It can be obviously noted that a lot of the activities involving grilling and fire involve simple common sense in order to prevent mishaps. Gas and charcoal grills should never be used indoors: even if a fire does not spread, a potentially deadly buildup of carbon monoxide and other gases can occur.
To prevent fire spreading, according to the NSC, keep the grill at least 10 feet away from siding, decks and railings. Keep it out from under eaves and overhanging branches. As noted earlier, gasoline should never be used to help start a charcoal grill; use only an instructed amount of lighter fluid and never apply lighter fluid to hot or already ignited coals as it can cause a dangerous flare up.
One major aspect of fire safety involves the most vulnerable amongst a group: children. Always maintain an at least three-foot safety radius around grills, and do not let children or pets enter that area. To further avoid possible accidents involving children, set up grills outside of high foot-traffic areas.
Another popular activity that poses a risk for everyone involved is the use of fireworks. If one chooses to use fireworks this summer, first make sure they are even legal in the area in which you live. With regards to Naval District Washington (NDW), Maryland, D.C. and Virginia all have very strict laws regarding the purchase or use of fireworks: all three jurisdictions prohibit the sale or use of aerial fireworks or firecrackers (those that leave the ground such as bottle rockets or mortars, or those which actively explode).
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, that does not mean, however, that those that are legal are not without risks of their own: sparklers, for instance, burn at temperatures approaching 2,000 degrees hot enough to melt gold. Sparklers and similar spark-emitting devices like fountains can quickly ignite combustible material and cause serious burns.
No matter the type, if one chooses to use fireworks this season, keep these things in mind: 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, never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully, and never point or throw fireworks at another person.
If you keep these tips in mind while you're stoking the flames this Fourth of July season, it is possible to keep the season both safe and fun.
For more information on grilling safety, visit the Naval Safety Center at http://www.public.navy.mil/navsafecen and for more information on firework/outdoor safety visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission at http://www.cpsc.gov/info/ fireworks/index.html.