Apple pie, well-spent time with our loved-ones, and fireworks-these are the things that come to mind when we think of the 4th of July, and I’m grateful for that. These things should come to mind when we think of a holiday that celebrates the independence and freedom of our country. While that is all said and good, there’s also the insurance expert side of me that also knows we need to be mindful of what is happening behind the scenes. As you may recall from our Allstate-The Espeland Group Facebook page posts, the 4th of July is actually the deadliest of holidays from driving impaired. We posted tips on a proactive approach to driving. We encourage you to read these tips BEFORE you celebrate.

But in addition to this being the deadliest of holidays due to driving impairment it is also quite dangerous on other levels as well. Did you know that there are more than $35 million per year in fire damages nationally due to fireworks and decorations associated with fireworks? Perhaps more importantly, emergency rooms are inundated with thousands of people each year due to injuries resulting from fireworks. In 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that four people were killed and over 9,600 injured from Fourth of July-related fireworks. This should be a time we spend making memories that our children will pass on to their children. This shoudn’t be a holiday of tragedies.

Hence I am sharing with you some tips on Fourth of July safety. Some may seem a smidge obvious, but trust me, when you have been in the insurance business as long as we have, some people truly do not know what may seem obvious to you.

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Tips for Fourth of July safety:

Numero uno, rule number one, is to leave the fireworks to the pros! Not only is it dangerous, but it’s also illegal in New Jersey, it is illegal to own almost all fireworks — even sparklers — without a permit, which generally is reserved for shows approved by local fire departments. Possessing fireworks is roughly equivalent to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct offense, while owning fireworks with the intent to sell them carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Also, a ticket for using an illegal firework could mean a hike in homeowner’s premiums.

Stay away from illegal fireworks. They are illegal for a reason and are more dangerous than other types. They aren’t as controlled, they are not safe, and people performing without permits are not properly trained. Don’t go there.

Avoid areas of dry leaves or grass and ensure that there are no tree overhangs or gutters nearby. If you are close to fireworks, but aren’t even participating, you can still be in the line of danger if your gutters are filled with dry leaves. Not only are gutters the most common trouble, they are often the most overlooked. It just takes one rogue fire work landing in a gutter filled with dry leaves and the whole house can quickly go up in flames.

Decorate with safety in mind. Keep all decorations away from anywhere there might be flames. If there is even a minute possibility some out of control spark could reach a paper decoration, move the decoration and put somewhere safe. Always stick with the old adage, “It is better to be safe, than be sorry,” when you are questioning the placement of decorations.

Always know where your fire extinguisher is! Be prepared! I encourage you to even take it one step further and make sure you have a water source handy as well. A bucket filled with water is a great alternative when you don’t have a nearby water source.

If you are the host of a party, it may be a good idea to have designated drivers in place. Studies show that many designated drivers, or DD’s, are more impaired than the people they are chauffeuring around. A study conducted at the University of Florida found that many designated drivers still drink alcohol, and some DDs party to a level that can impair them behind the wheel. So, you need to find ‘heroes’ that commit to abstain from any and all alcohol during your Fourth of July festivities. Call them ‘heroes’ because they are, and switch ‘heroes’ between holidays-take turns.

Here at The Espeland Group we wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July. Our goal is to help you remember holidays like the Fourth of July for the right reasons, because of happy memories forged as family and friends, and never because of tragedies. From my Espeland Group family, to yours, Happy Fourth of July!