There’s a lot to celebrate besides our nation’s founding this 4th of July. Now that most restrictions have been lifted, many of us are more than ready to get together to feast on barbecue, enjoy a fireworks show, or go for a swim.
Before you call your friends and scrape off the grill, help ensure a good time for all by taking a moment to account for a few common July 4th hazards.
Yes, COVID-19 is still with us, and many people still need to get vaccinated. So take a few extra steps when celebrating to protect yourself and others around you.
If you’re unvaccinated, you still need to wear a mask whenever you’re around other people you don’t live with in indoor settings. We recommend you wear one outside too when you can’t keep six feet between yourself and other people who don’t live with you.
If you’re fully vaccinated, bring a mask with you in case you find yourself in a large crowd or visiting a business that requires masks for everyone. Although not required by state law, we still recommend you wear masks in crowded spaces. It's also still best to keep six feet away from other people if you don’t know whether they’re vaccinated.
Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer to get those COVID-19 germs off of you. It’s great for food safety, too!
If you’re on grill duty, make sure you’re storing and cooking your food properly and washing your hands thoroughly to prevent foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli and most often spread by unwashed hands or uncooked or under-cooked meats. Symptoms from foodborne illness can be as mild as a stomach ache or serious enough to require hospitalization.
Thankfully, foodborne illnesses are highly preventable. Here’s how:
Wash your hands before and after cooking or eating. Soap and water are preferred for handwashing, but hand sanitizers or disposable hand wipes may be used if no water is available.
Wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables with running water before cooking and serving, since bacteria can be transferred by handling or cutting. Keep prepared foods like pasta or potato salads cold in a cooler until they’re ready to be served. DOH has more information.
Cook meats to a safe internal temperature. Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator, or seal it in packages and thaw in cold water. Never place food on any dish that previously held raw meat or eggs. DOH has more information, including safe internal temperatures for meat, poultry and fish.
Store food safely. Make sure food stays at a safe temperature right up til the moment it’s eaten. Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Store leftovers in a container with lots of ice. DOH has more information and tips for storing food safely.
Swimming is a great way to cool off on a hot day and can be enjoyed safely provided the right safety measures are in place.
Know the water. Lakes, rivers and oceans have different features, hazards and temperatures to contend with. Check the temperatures before diving in, and watch for signs of cold water shock. Be on the lookout for log jams, drop-offs, or other underwater hazards.
Know your limits. Swimming in open water is harder than swimming in a pool. You’ll tire faster and get into trouble more quickly. Swim in an area with a lifeguard, especially if you aren’t a strong swimmer. Avoid strong currents. Stay sober - never mix alcohol or drugs with swimming or boating.
Wear a life jacket that fits you, and make sure any children do too. Monitor children closely when they’re near water; they can go under water quickly and quietly.
DOH has more information about how to stay safe in open water.
Because of the severe heat wave we experienced last weekend, vegetation in the area is much drier than normal and the risk of fire is much higher. Because of this, the Whatcom County Executive, Fire Marshal and Sheriff are asking you not to light your own fireworks this Fourth and instead attend one of the many public fireworks displays planned around Whatcom County (while staying COVID-19 safe, of course).
If you do choose to light your own fireworks, we want you to be safe. Follow these safety precautions to keep you and yourself safe from injury if you to choose to set off fireworks:
Check your city’s rules before setting off your own fireworks. Every city, county, or town has their own rules and regulations for using fireworks. Check with your local fire or police department before potentially getting yourself in trouble. Make sure you only buy fireworks that are legal in the area you intend to use them.
Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Light fireworks one at a time, then back away quickly to a safe distance. Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully. After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
Hundreds of people end up in the emergency room after improperly handling fireworks. Using fireworks safely demands preparation, responsibility and attention. If you follow these safety guidelines, you’ll enjoy a safe and exciting Fourth of July that you’ll remember for years to come.