Independence Day Safety

This July 4th marks the 240th birthday of the United States signing the Declaration of Independence. The Roanoke City & Alleghany District of the Virginia Department of Health encourages you to celebrate the occasion with the safe handling of food and fireworks.

The United States of America declared independence from Great Britain on July 4th 1776. Since then, we the people have taken part in an annual commemoration of the event with exceptional displays of fireworks and the consumption of a variety of home cooked foods that warm the soul and just feel like home. While the best way to enjoy fireworks and to prevent potential injuries is to attend a professional public fireworks display, below are helpful reminders designed to increase your safety this 4th of July.

  • Follow all warning labels and take extra precautions to properly handle fireworks to avoid injury. Don’t leave children unsupervised.  Fireworks are ignited with a flame and can cause burn injuries if mishandled. Even sparklers are designed to throw off showers of hot sparks with temperatures exceeding 1200 degrees.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks and light only one firework at a time to allow time to quickly clear the area. Most fireworks contain an explosive element and projectile that can cause eye injuries, burns, cuts and bruises if misdirected. Always ensure fireworks are placed in a clear, outdoor area on a firm and solid base pointed away from any people, buildings or other obstructions before igniting. Never place a firework in your pocket or in a metal or glass container.
  • Do not drink alcohol while using fireworks.
    A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities without impairment. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework.
    Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water. Always have a bucket of water and charged hose nearby. Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trashcan away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • Do not experiment with homemade explosives and obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks. When in doubt, leave the show to the professionals.

American holiday 4th of July - Picnic TableIn comparison to explosives, your food may seem harmless, but food that has not been properly stored and cooked can have you rushing to the emergency room just as fast. It is important to remember that harmful bacteria can start to grow when perishable food is between temperatures of 41 and 135 °F; perishable food transported without ice or a heat source won’t stay safe long. When preparing meals remember to follow these safety tips:

  • Clean Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils, and countertops with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before handling food.
  • Separate Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods. If possible use separate cutting boards and utensil for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Cook Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 155°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry.
  • Chill – Keep your refrigerator below 40°F, and refrigerate food that will spoil. Leftovers should be eaten, frozen or discarded within 3 to 4 days. When reheating, make sure there are no cold spots in the food and the temperature reaches 165°F throughout to eliminate most harmful bacteria.

Grills burn too. The following tips can help reduce the risk for injuries and help prevent fires while cooking your Independence Day meal:

  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Keep children and pets clear of the grilling area.
  • Remember to keep your grill clean and remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be accidentally ignited.
  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation. Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • With charcoal grills, only use charcoal starter fluids designed for barbecue grills and do not add fluid after coals have been lit.
  • With gas grills, be sure that the hose connection is tight and check hoses carefully for leaks. Applying soapy water to the hoses will easily and safely reveal any leaks. If you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don’t light the grill.

If you experience symptoms of food poisoning such as vomiting or have an injury this 4th of July, please visit your local healthcare professional or dial 911.

For additional public health Information visit the Virginia health department website at or the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

For additional information on firework safety please visit the US Consumer and Produces Safety Commissions Fireworks Information Center online at


This article is part one of a five-part series from the Roanoke Alleghany District of the Virginia Department of Health meant to inform local residents about the risks and preventive measures they can take to protect the health of their families and friends this summer.
The Roanoke Alleghany Health District works to prevent epidemics and the spread of disease, protect the environment, prevent injury, promote and encourage healthy behavior, respond to disasters and assist communities in recovery, and assure the quality and accessibility of health services for all members of our community.

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