As emergency services providers, WCEC members confront the effects of fires in homes and businesses, auto accidents, and other mishaps on a daily basis. As a result we are concerned with the safety of everyone in the communities we serve.
Summer is here and many people will be spending more time outdoors in the fine weather doing exercise and lawn care, playing sports, and cooking outside. You can help you and you family avoid accident and injury by reviewing a few warm-weather safety tips.
Here are some safety tips for a number of popular summertime activities.
- Working & Playing in the Heat
- Swimming at Home
- Outdoor Cooking
- Yard Care & Gardening
Working & Playing in the Heat
If you are starting outdoor exercise or work after a winter of inactivity ease into it. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Take time to warm up and stretch a bit to avoid strains and sprains. If you are thinking of taking up more intense exercise after a long period of inactivity, consult with your doctor.
As you work or play outdoors remember to drink water regularly. How much water should you drink? It depends on your health, your level of activity, and the temperature, but if you are working hard enough or are hot enough to sweat you should drinking extra water, especially if you are over 60, pregnant, or breast feeding. Ask you doctor if you have questions about the amount of water you should drink.
Know the Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
Be aware that the warning signs of heat exhaustion are headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, sudden weakness, paleness, fainting, nausea or vomiting, and heavy sweating. Anyone experiencing any number of these symptoms while working in summer heat should stop what they are doing immediately, rest, and drink a cool, non-alcoholic beverage. Seeking shelter in an air-conditioned environment or taking a cool shower (standing in a hose or sprinkler spray works too) will also help treat heat exhaustion. If symptoms persist after an hour of treatment, promptly seek medical attention.
Left untreated, heat exhaustion can quickly develop into heat stroke which is a serious, life-threatening condition. Should a person faint, become confused, or develop a fever or seizures after working or playing in the heat, call 911 immediately.
Protect Eyes and Skin from the Sun’s UV Rays
UV rays can damage your eyes and skin. Just one severe childhood sunburn can double an individual’s chances of developing skin cancer in adult life. If you are planning to be outdoors for any length of time in the summer, use a sunscreen with an SPF number of at least 30, preferably one that’s waterproof. When you put sunscreen on, don’t skimp. An average adult in a swimsuit needs 2-3 tablespoons of sunscreen overall. If you are swimming or sweating heavily you’ll need to apply more every 2 to 3 hours. Remember, you can get a sunburn even on cloudy days. Of course a hat and loose clothing can also help stop sunburn.
To protect your eyes, choose sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
Swimming at Home
Whether you have a complete in-ground pool or just a portable wading pool for the kids, there are a number of safety tips you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Never let young children swim without an able adult present.
- Don’t swim when thunder and lighting threaten.
- Wading or “baby” pools should be emptied after each use to ensure the safety of young children. Young children can drown in very small amounts of water.
- Because contaminated pool water can make you or others sick, put swim diapers on toddlers and babies and don’t change diapers near the pool.
- Larger above ground pools should be securely covered when not in use, and portable ladders or decks should be removed from the pool when everyone is finished swimming for the day.
- If you have an in-ground pool or a permanent above-ground pool install barriers around it. Barriers should be at least four feet high with gates that are self-closing and self-latching. Gate latches should be high enough that children cannot reach them.
- If you have an in-ground pool, be aware that swimming pool drains pose a serious safety hazard. Children have drowned as a result of getting hands and feet stuck in pool drains. The suction and size of the drains can make it impossible for the children to extricate themselves. You can purchase drain covers that will still allow the pool pumps to function but will ensure children will not get stuck.
Check bicycles to make sure they are ready to ride. Tires should be inflated to the pressure printed on the tire. Safety devices such as chain guards should be securely in place. Brakes should work easily and stop the bike quickly.
In Pennsylvania, children under the age of 12 are required by law to wear an appropriate helmet when riding a bicycle. It’s a good idea for anyone of any age riding a bike (or a skateboard, or scooter, or motorcycle) to wear a helmet.
If you cook outdoors on a gas grill take some time to make sure that your gas cylinder and all gas line connectors are clean and in good repair, especially if the grill has been stored outdoors over the fall and winter or was put away dirty. Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Also remember:
- Once the LP cylinder is connected, the grill must be kept outside in a well-ventilated space. When not in use, the LP cylinder valve must be turned to the off position (clockwise).
- If storing the gas grill indoors, the LP cylinder must be disconnected, removed, and stored outdoors. Never store an LP cylinder indoors.
- The cylinder valve outlet must be plugged whenever the cylinder is not connected to the grill or is being transported unless it is a quick close coupling or quick connect type of cylinder valve. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for handling of cylinders.
- Always store LP cylinders upright and in areas where temperatures won’t exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Never store a spare LP cylinder on or near a grill or any other appliance.
- Always check for gas leaks every time you disconnect and reconnect the regulator to the LP cylinder.
- Never attach or disconnect an LP cylinder, or move or alter gas fittings when the grill is in operation or is hot.
If you prefer cooking on a charcoal fire, be aware that charcoal fires produce carbon monoxide, a deadly gas. For this reason, never use a charcoal grill in an enclosed space in any season. Also remember:
- When using charcoal briquets or wood chunks lighter fluid wait until fluid has soaked in before lighting.
- Cap lighter fluid immediately and place a safe distance from grill.
- Never add lighter fluid to coals that are already hot or warm.
- Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other highly volatile fluids as a starter. They can explode.
- As an alternative to lighter fluid, use an electric, solid, metal chimney or other starter specifically made for lighting charcoal briquets or wood chunks.
- Unplug and remove a hot starter with caution and be careful where you put it. Always cool starter completely before storing.
- Never use an electric starter in the rain and/or when standing on wet ground.
- Keep kids and pets away from the grill while it’s hot and while you are cooking.
- Once the grill is lit, do not touch briquets or wood chunks to see if they are hot. Keep grill uncovered until ready to cook.
- Allow coals to burn out completely and let ashes cool at least 48 hours before disposing.
- Dispose of cold ashes by wrapping in heavy-duty aluminum foil and placing in non-combustible container. Be sure no other combustible materials are nearby.
- If you must dispose of ashes before completely cooled, place them in heavy duty foil and soak with water completely before disposing in non-combustible container.
Yard Care & Gardening Hazards
Mowing the Lawn
Before you use your lawn mower take a few extra minutes to be sure that all mower safety devices are in position and working — rear shield, grass chute deflector, handle up-stops, and “dead man” automatic shut off device. When mowing, turn your mower off if you leave it, even for a minute and make sure that pets and people are not in the path of the mower’s discharge.
Store and transport gasoline for your mower and other power tools only in approved safety containers. The best place to store gasoline is in a locked, well-ventilated structure separate from your house. The storage area should have no electrical equipment, open flames or other sources of ignition present. In addition, the location should be protected from the heat of the summer sun to keep evaporation to a minimum.
Do not store gasoline in the basement of your home or in the utility room. The furnace, water heater, clothes dryer or any of several other items could ignite fumes which may leak from the can and travel considerable distances. If you do not have a suitable storage area, consider building a cabinet outside your house for storage or purchasing a commercially available flammable liquid storage cabinet.
If you use chemicals to control plant pests and a diseases
- Keep chemicals in their original containers if possible.
- Label your chemical application device ( your garden sprayer, for example). List the name of the chemical, the date you bought it, the expiration date if the original container gave one, and the intended use of the chemical. Proper labeling can save vital time in the event of an accidental poisoning.
- Know the names of the chemicals you use (RoundUp, Weed-B-Gone, etc.), and the phone number of the poison control center. Many chemical containers also give a Medical Information phone number as well as first aid instructions.
- Store chemicals according to manufacturer instruction. Recommended storage temperatures vary by product. Remember to store them in places inaccessible to children and pets. A locked cabinet specific to garden chemical storage, away from the house, food, children, and pets is an excellent idea.
- While using the product wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves. Use a mask if there is any concern about inhalation of the product. Don’t use the chemical when children and pets are around.
- When you are finished with using the chemical, wash your hands well, and launder your clothing promptly.
- Read the label on the original container and dispose of excess chemical and the container as instructed. Never pour a chemical down the drain or somewhere else where it might jeopardize the ground water supply.
Burning Yard Waste
You may be tempted to burn yard waste and fall down that has accumulated over the winter and during spring and summer. Each spring, summer and fall WCEC responds to rubbish and brush fires that get out of control.
If you must burn yard waste, please:
- Never leave a fire unattended, even if it’s in a burning barrel.
- Never burn any closer than 50 feet to any structure and never closer than 20 feet to brush or vegetation.
- Keep the fire to a reasonable size by adding small amounts of fuel over time. Avoid making a bonfire.
- Have some means of extinguishing the fire close by, such as a garden hose or a fire extinguisher of proper size.
- Be aware of the weather and the condition of nearby vegetation. Don’t burn when it’s dry and check with your township to see if a burning ban has been put in place.
- Let your near neighbors know when you are planning to burn. Neighbors sometimes mistake yard waste fire for a house fire and call 911.