12 Tips to Keep You and Your Loved Ones Safe This Summer

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By Luis DeRosa RN, BSN, EMT-P

As the school year ends, we all begin gathering with friends and family as more pandemic restrictions are lifted, many of us are eager to host and attend backyard barbecues.

But working for years as a trauma nurse at Ryder Trauma Center and now as an injury prevention coordinator, I see people come into our trauma center who — in an instant — had a great day turn into a nightmare.

In the blink of an eye, their day, and sometimes life, can change. Many, if not most, of the accidents that led to their injuries, are preventable.

Here are some common injuries we see resulting from summer gatherings in June and July and ways to keep you and your loved ones safe.

BBQ Safety
Nearly every house has a barbecue grill in their backyard, and we use them so often for outdoor parties without even thinking about the potential dangers.

Every year, almost 11,000 house fires are started nationally by barbecue grills, according to the National Fire Protection Association. This results in almost 20,000 people injured every year due to some sort of grilling incident.

At Ryder Trauma Center, we see the most grill-related fires and injuries during July. June is close behind.

Follow these steps to enjoy your next outdoor meal without getting hurt:

  1. Make sure the person cooking is not consuming too much alcohol, which can impair their reaction time and judgment.
  2. Gas grills have a lot of flammable gas in them, and the fumes themselves can cause a flash fire. Be cautious when looking into a grill in use. People end up with significant injuries due to burns to the face, chest, neck, and arms because they are standing over the grill when the vapors ignite.
  3. Keep kids at least three feet away from the grill at all times and never leave them unattended when the barbecue is on. Kids often have much slower reaction times, and when a flash fire ignites, they do not step away fast enough from the grill — and often don’t close their eyes fast enough, too, resulting in painful injuries.
  4. Do not use a barbecue grill in any sort of enclosure — including a screened porch. The screens only allow approximately 50% ventilation, so you can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  5. Make sure the barbecue is away from deck railings and low-hanging branches or trees, as these can easily catch on fire.
  6. Regularly clean and maintain the grill by removing grease and fat build-up on the trays below. The accumulation is flammable and can cause hot spots and/or a grease fire.

Firework & Sparkler Safety
Between June and July each year, we also see a significant number of injuries from fireworks.

Here are some ways to ensure everyone stays safe when celebrating the 4th of July holiday:

  1. Buy your fireworks and sparklers from a reputable source and company.
  2. Keep people a safe distance away from the fireworks. If you are setting fireworks off in the street, have people sit on the lawn and use parked cars along the curb as a safety buffer, in case a firework falls over and is launched towards the crowd.
  3. Keep one or more large buckets of water nearby in case of a fire and for placing finished fireworks in. Water can also be used if someone gets burned – the water can stop the burning process and help prevent injuries from worsening.
  4. Light fireworks one at a time and in one location.
  5. Do not reignite duds. So many injuries happen because a firework did not seem to go off, and then once the person stepped forward to relight it, it ignites.
  6. Be extremely cautious and careful with sparklers, and take extra precautions when letting kids use them. Sparklers can get as hot as 2,000-degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as a blowtorch. Kids often touch them after they burn out and end up with second and third-degree burns. Have a bucket of water nearby to dip the sparklers in as soon as they go out. You can also cut a hole in a paper plate and stick the sparkler through the hole, so there is a buffer between your child’s hand and the sparks.

By following these tips and thinking through safety measures before your next gathering, we can all enjoy the summer months while keeping our friends and loved ones safe.

Luis DeRosa RN, BSN, EMT-P is an injury prevention coordinator at Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Medical Center. Ryder is also home to the Miami Burn Center, which treats adults and children in all stages of recovery, from acute care through rehabilitation and reconstructive surgery.