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Fourth of July Safety

Spark holiday fun, not a fire

This Fourth of July, your church may be planning a picnic, games and even an amateur fireworks display. Amid the fun, keep safety a top priority.

Picnics or cookouts

Any time you're serving food — especially if it involves potluck dishes — be careful of food-borne illnesses. Dr. Angela Fraser, Food Safety Specialist with the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at North Carolina State University, recommends these tips:

  • Wash hands before handling food and use clean utensils and containers. Consider keeping a bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer on each food table.

  • Do not prepare foods more than one day before your picnic. Unless foods are quick-frozen according to food preparation standards, food poisoning becomes a risk.

  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Cold foods need to stay below 40°F and hot foods need to stay above 140°F to prevent harmful bacteria growth.

  • Melons aren't as safe as you think. Watermelon and cantaloupe often have Salmonella and Shigella bacteria on their rind. And since these melons aren't acidic, they support the growth of harmful bacteria if they aren’t kept cold. (Tip: To reduce bacteria, wash the rinds before you cut melons.)

  • Mayonnaise-based foods need to be kept cold. Mayonnaise alone is too acidic for bacteria to grow in it. However, when mayonnaise is mixed with other foods (particularly those that have been handled a lot and/or are protein-rich foods), bacteria can grow if the mixture gets too warm.


What's a Fourth of July picnic without games? But no matter how safe your activities, accidents are always a possibility. While planning your activities, be sure to evaluate games for what might go wrong. Then take a moment to plan how you could prevent potential injuries. Be sure to have a first-aid kit nearby. Make sure games are played in an outdoor area that isn’t near food tables, grills or open water.


Even if you're not planning to allow anything more than sparklers or novelty fireworks, use them with care. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, sparklers, fountains and novelty fireworks were responsible for more than a third of serious injuries from fireworks in 2007. The fact that these fireworks are legal doesn’t mean they can’t cause injuries. Most fireworks injuries (92%) involve fireworks that are legally purchased.

Always check your state and local laws for what's allowed in your area. For information about state guidelines governing fireworks, see an online Directory of State Laws. Simply select your state to receive a list of regulations, as well as licensing and insurance requirements.

Appropriate coverages

Safety isn't your only concern. As you plan your special event, take a moment to review your property and casualty insurance protection. Does your general liability insurance policy reimburse medical expenses for anyone hurt while paying games or participating in a fireworks display? Many of these policies exclude coverage for medical payments for athletic or fireworks injuries.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Readers should use this article as a tool, along with best judgment and any terms or conditions that apply, to determine appropriate safety precautions for programs and activities.