Memorial Day – traditionally the unofficial start of summer – is a time to remember our nation’s lost heroes, gather with friends and family for cookouts, and bask in some good ol’ Florida sunshine (which has been making it feel like summer for a while).
Unfortunately, there are several threats ready and waiting to crash your party.
Here are six common Memorial Day disasters to watch out for, so you can welcome summer without a worry.
Swimming Pool Drownings
As many Floridians prepare to spend this Memorial Day weekend poolside, keeping pool safety in mind is important. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children under the age of 4, and drowning incidents peak between May and August. Even if everyone in your family knows how to swim, there’s still a serious risk of accidental drowning.
How to prevent swimming pool drownings:
- Install a 4-foot-high, self-locking fence around your pool to prevent young children from entering without adult supervision.
- Designate a responsible adult to supervise children at all times as they swim or play by the pool.
- Steer clear of pool drains, pipes, and other openings that may cause entrapments. Be especially cautious with younger children.
- Put away pool toys and rafts immediately after use to prevent trip-and-fall accidents and keep young children out of the pool area unsupervised.
- Don’t drink alcohol before or during swimming or while supervising children in the pool.
If not handled properly, some of our favorite Memorial Day munchies can spoil the holiday fun. Combined, meat and produce are responsible for nearly 70% of foodborne illness cases. Yikes!
How to prevent food poisoning:
- Thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling food, especially meat, to prevent cross-contamination. Clean utensils, cutting boards, and cookware after they have come in contact with food, and opt for color-coded plastic cutting boards instead of wooden cutting boards.
- Marinate raw meats in the refrigerator, not on the counter. When preparing cooked food, don’t reuse marinade that has already been used on raw meats.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked properly before serving it to guests. Not sure what temperature to cook your meat to? Refer to the FoodSafety.gov chart of safe minimum cooking temperatures.
- Don’t air-dry produce. Blot or rub fruits and vegetables dry to remove microorganisms prior to consumption.
- Hosting the party outside? Don’t leave food baking in the Florida heat all day. Store hot food on the grill and place cold food in a cooler or on ice. Refrigerate all perishable leftovers within two hours of preparation (one hour if it’s above 90 degrees outside) and toss out any food that has been sitting out too long.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, residential grill fires result in an estimated $37 million in property loss each year. Over half of these fires – 57 percent – occur between May and August. Don’t let your backyard barbecue go up in flames …
How to prevent grill fires:
- Use your grill in an open, well-ventilated area outside and away from your home.
- Never leave cooking food unattended, and keep flammable items – such as grill lighter fluid, potholders, wooden utensils, towels, napkins, and cleaning supplies – away from the grill at all times.
- Using a propane grill? Inspect the gas tank hose for leaks before operating it for the first time each year. To do this, wash the hose with a light soap-and-water solution. If there is a leak, gas will escape from the cracks and form new bubbles on the hose’s surface. Small bubbles indicate a minor leak, while large bubbles indicate a more serious leak. If this occurs, turn the grill off immediately and replace the hose.
- If you ever start to smell gas while using your grill, immediately turn it off, walk away, and replace the hose. Do not try to move the grill.
- Be prepared in case of a fire. Test your smoke alarms before you kick off your Memorial Day weekend festivities and make sure your household fire extinguisher is up to date.
While it can be tempting to spend the long weekend enjoying some fun in the sun, all it takes is a single sunburn to do lasting damage to your skin. Ultraviolet rays from the sun are known to cause skin cancer, which affects nearly 5 million people every year.
How to prevent sunburns:
- Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more when spending time outdoors. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside, and reapplied every two hours or after going swimming.
- Wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to protect your eyes and face. Today’s sunglasses often have lenses that can block out UVA and UVB rays, which will help prevent cataracts and other eye concerns in the future.
- When possible, wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants or a long skirt for additional protection. If that’s not practical, wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors.
- In Florida, the sun is strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. This is the perfect time to head back inside and enjoy a refreshing lunch or mid-day nap. If you have to be outside during these hot hours, seek shade for temporary shelter from damaging rays.
- If you do get a sunburn, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends putting a cold, damp towel on your skin or taking a cool bath to help relieve the pain. Additionally, use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin, and drink extra water to prevent dehydration.
Bug Bites and Stings
Buzz… Buzz… Bugs and insects are more than just a nuisance during Memorial Day festivities. From inflicting itchy bites and stings to spreading illness, these pesky critters pose a serious health hazard to you and your guests. The same mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue can also transmit Zika virus, a growing concern for pregnant women, especially in mosquito-rampant regions like Florida.
How to prevent bug bites and stings:
- Wear repellent when spending time outdoors. Opt for EPA-registered repellents containing DEET or picaridin – both of which are considered safe and effective. The higher the concentration of DEET, the longer it will last.
- When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce your risk of mosquito and tick bites. At the end of the day, check for signs of ticks that may have attached to your clothes or bitten you.
- Enjoying a refreshing drink outside? Check your cup before you drink out of it to avoid swallowing a fly that decided to go for a swim – or worse, getting stung by a bee or wasp that found your beverage inviting.
- Inspect patio furniture for insect nests before your guests arrive, and keep air circulating near you (from fans or natural breezes) to disrupt insect flight and reduce your risk of being bitten or stung.
- Bees love flowers as much as you do. To keep them out of your guests’ hair, move flowers away from areas where people will gather.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly three-quarters of home invasions take place when a household member is not present. Your home is particularly vulnerable to theft when you’re away for extended periods of time – such as a long weekend getaway for Memorial Day.
How to prevent theft:
- Before leaving town for the weekend check that all doors, windows, and any other openings are locked and secured.
- Install timers on your lights to give the impression that you’re home.
- Don’t publicly announce your travel plans. Be careful when discussing your trip details in public places like restaurants, offices, and stores – and on social media.
- Don’t leave valuable possessions in places that are visible from the outside of your house.
- Make sure your valuables are covered in case of property theft. Most homeowner’s insurance policies have a $1,000 limit for loss by theft of jewelry, watches, furs, and precious and semi-precious stones. Call your agent to discuss your coverage needs.