Erie Insurance Offers Safety Tips for July 4th Outdoor Parties

July 3, 2013

Seven in 10 Americans who plan to celebrate the 4th of July this year will attend a barbecue, cookout or picnic, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2013 Independence Day survey. That amounts to 164 million people, a record number in that category.

To help people stay safe at parties this holiday weekend and all throughout the summer, Erie, Penn.-based Erie Insurance describes common outdoor party mishaps and simple ways to avoid them.

• Leave fireworks to the professionals. Approximately 9,600 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2011, according to the most recent data published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

An estimated 17,800 fires were started by fireworks in 2011, causing $32 million in property damage, according to the data. NFPA’s data also show that fireworks cause two out of five reported fires on a typical Independence Day, more than any other cause of fire.

Erie Insurance said it has seen both personal injury and property damage claims caused by fireworks — including one in which a customer was shooting off fireworks in their yard and the sparks landed on a neighbor’s house, catching it on fire.

“Fireworks are wonderful way to celebrate our country’s birthday, but we recommend watching them at a community-sanctioned location, rather than setting them off yourself,” said Matt Myers, senior vice president of claims at Erie Insurance.

“There are just too many things that can go wrong, especially in a group of people and when children are nearby,” he said.

Myers added that if parents allow their children to play with sparklers, which NFPA says account for a quarter of all fireworks-related injuries, such sparklers should be extinguished completely in water to avoid having them unexpectedly reignite.

• Be careful when firing up the grill. More than eight out of 10 U.S. households owning a grill or smoker, according to a 2009 study conducted by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. Erie Insurance said it has seen fires caused by people putting their grills too close to the house.

“It’s not just the flames from the fire that can be a hazard,” said Myers, “but the radiant heat from the grill can melt vinyl siding, and can even catch a house on fire.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends grills be placed at least 10 feet away from any structure, and that they never be used in a garage, breezeway, carport or porch, or under any surface that can catch fire.

Erie Insurance also cautions against pouring lighter fluid over hot coals, which can cause a flash fire or explosion. If the homeowner dumps hot coals on the ground after the barbecue is done, the coals should be thoroughly doused with water to make sure they are completely out.

• Make the right kind of campfire memories. Gathering around a campfire roasting marshmallows and telling stories is a great way to spend time with family and friends — and more and more people are doing that with commercially manufactured fire pits designed for patios and back yards. But while fire pits can be a great addition to an outdoor space, it’s important to remember that anything that involves fire is inherently risky.

Erie Insurance recommends never putting a fire pit on a wooden deck. “We had a claim in which a customer thought the fire was out but the wind caught a spark, and that led to the deck catching on fire,” said Myers.

“We’ve also seen a situation where a customer started a fire in fire pit not realizing that the bottom had nearly rusted out, and the whole thing, burning embers and all, collapsed onto the wooden deck and started a fire,” he added.

• Tread carefully with pools, toys and games. Swimming pools, trampolines, playground equipment, volleyball nets — these and similar items can amp up the fun factor at an outdoor party, but homeowners should use common sense to keep guests safe.

“Even simple housekeeping, like storing toys and games out of areas where people can trip on them, can make your guests safer,” said Myers. “Using common sense, like not putting the volleyball net too close to the grill, can also make a huge difference.”

The insurer said swimming pools can be particularly hazardous, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting drowning as the leading cause of injury and death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. The CDC offers several swimming pool safety tips including that children learn to swim and be closely supervised when near pools or spas.

Source: Erie Insurance

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