Safety first for the Fourth

Local law enforcement will be out to ensure a happy holiday

Everyone has their own way to relax and celebrate the Fourth of July, but for law enforcement and emergency personnel, it’s one of their busiest times of the year as safety becomes the primary concern.

The Florida Highway Patrol will monitor traffic conditions with greater vigilance July 4-7 with the increased activity.

“We’re going to be out in force to make sure traffic is safe,” said Lt. Greg Bueno, a spokesman for FHP. “We tend to take a more proactive approach during the holidays.”

Motorists are encouraged to call *FHP (*347) if they see any erratic driving.

Debbie Bowe, spokeswoman for Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies will have increased patrols in areas where celebrations are being held.

“We ask that people designate drivers and boaters,” she said.

But behind the wheel isn’t the only dangerous place to be.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 200 people on average go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the Fourth of July holiday. Most of the people injured from fireworks are men ages 25-44. Overall, men make up 74 percent of the adults injured. Men are mostly injured from firecrackers, sparklers, bottle rockets, novelty devices, Roman candles and reloadable shells. Women are injured more often at public fireworks displays.

“People should maintain safety first,” Bowe said. “Even sparklers can burn.”    Fire officials like North Port Fire Marshal Michael Frantz and Dee Hawkins-Garland, spokeswoman for Charlotte County Fire/ EMS, agree sparklers can be dangerous, particularly to young children.

“It’s not a good idea to give a 5-year-old a sparkler,” Frantz said.

Hawkins-Garland recommends glowsticks as safe alternatives for children.

Bowe said anything that launches, like a bottle rocket, or explodes, like a cherry bomb, is illegal.

“(Fireworks vendors) have people sign waivers and it has to be for ‘agricultural’ purposes,” she said.

Hawkins-Garland said she knows people will buy fireworks despite the dangers and offers some tips.

“We recommend if you’re setting them off, do it on concrete and away from heavy brush,” she said. “Parents should not allow children to have them. When you operate them, consider eye protection. Someone should have a phone handy.”

For more information on fireworks safety, go to http://www.cpsc.gov/Fireworks

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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