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Tips to Celebrate the 4th Safely


The Fourth of July is right around the corner. And if you're one of the lucky ones, you may even have a four day weekend to celebrate. Independence Day celebrations are on many people's social calendars, whether you're attending a big cookout or celebrating at home. However you choose to celebrate, make sure to be safe.

Most summer celebrations include cooking food on the grill. Be sure that your grill is placed on a hard flat surface such as a concrete patio. It should be at least 10 feet away from your house and other structures, including overhanging tree branches. Try to avoid placing it in an area where there's a lot of foot traffic to reduce the risk of someone accidentally getting burned.

Grill safety goes hand in hand with food safety. If you have frozen meat, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and never at room temperature. If you're serving any salads or sides that have mayonnaise, be sure to keep them refrigerated until you're ready to serve and refrigerate the leftovers promptly. You could place the serving bowl on top of another bowl filled with ice to keep the salad cool. Consider serving oil and vinegar based salads which remain safe to eat at room temperature.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and radar while you're outside. If a thunderstorm is predicted or you see lightning, go indoors. There is no safe place to be outdoors when a thunderstorm is in the area. If you're stuck outside with nowhere to take shelter, go to the lowest elevation possible. Avoid standing under trees, and stay away from bodies of water, wire fences, or anything else that can conduct electricity.

Mosquitoes (and ticks) can be not only a nuisance during a cookout, they can carry dangerous diseases that can be spread to humans when they bite, including Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Protect yourself by applying an insect repellent that contains DEET or natural repellents like citronella oil, peppermint oil, and neem oil. To reduce the mosquito population in your yard, remove all sources of standing water - they're the ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. This includes clogged gutters, old tires, planter saucers, and tarps.

It wouldn't be Independence Day without fireworks. There are public fireworks displays held in cities and towns throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. Don't be tempted to set off your own illegal fireworks and know the laws in your state/county. (See the full list of what's permitted and what's illegal here.)

In Washington DC, it's illegal to use firecrackers and any firework that explodes, like cherry bombs and roman candles. Sparklers under 20 inches, torches, cones, box fires, and fountains are permitted.

In Maryland, any firework that explodes or launches a projectile in the air or moves on the ground is illegal, including firecrackers, cherry bombs, black cats, and M-80s. Some counties (Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Prince George's, and Montgomery) have additional items that are illegal.

In Virginia, explosive fireworks and fireworks that launch aerial projectiles are illegal, including firecrackers, cherry bombs, and bottle rockets. Eleven counties and cities in Virginia have additional restrictions in place. Don't break the law and risk a hefty fine. Plan to enjoy one of the area's public fireworks displays that are licensed and inspected. See a comprehensive list of 2017 fireworks displays in our area here.

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