Enjoy Fireworks, Cooking Out and Camping this Summer – and Stay Safe

By: Alexandra Salerno

UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center teamed up with the Pittsburgh Bureau Police Bomb Squad to host its annual demonstration on summertime safety last week.

During the demonstration, UPMC Mercy Burn Center Medical Director Jenny Ziembicki, M.D., and Det. Carlos Schrader from the Pittsburgh Bureau Police Bomb Squad highlighted safety tips to keep people out of the hospital during the hot days of summer.

“We see a number of different injuries during the summer months,” Dr. Ziembicki said. “We see injuries from firework usage, outdoor cooking and from campfires. We see a number of different injuries to the face, eyes and hands.”

Nationally, there are about 10,000 accidents involving fireworks every year. Injuries can range from burns to dramatic amputations and about five people a year are admitted to the UPMC Mercy Burn Center with serious injuries related to fireworks, Dr. Ziembicki said.

So how do you stay safe? Here are three tips:

Leave the fireworks to the professionals. 
“[Fireworks] are the most dangerous of all,” Schrader said. “You don’t know where you got them even if you buy them from a reputable store. You don’t know who packaged them, and don’t know who had them before that so they are just dangerous in general.”

Even sparklers, one of Independence Day’s most popular at-home fireworks, are not safe for use according to Dr. Ziembicki.

“People underestimate the danger of a sparkler usage,” said Dr. Ziembicki. “They burn at significantly high temperatures greater than 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, and they cause a full thickness injury when they come in contact with the skin. All firework usage should be left up to professionals. Even the smaller type of fireworks can cause significant injuries and lifelong disabilities.”

Remember to be careful when using gasoline and charcoal grills.
“You should do a pre-summer check on your gas grill,” Schrader said.

He recommends cleaning out the grill by getting rid of rust and checking for bugs, spider webs and even small animals that may have lodged in lines from the winter months. Also, make sure your grill sparker works and your lines are clear before lighting, he said.

The experts also cautioned about the dangers of adding too much accelerant to charcoal grills.

“Once you have your charcoal grill going, you don’t need to add anymore,” Schrader said. “You don’t need to add any more fluid to it which in turn will cause a fire.”

Be cautious around the campfire

Although Dr. Ziembicki believes that campfires can be enjoyed safely, she said it is important to set a perimeter around the campfire. Added Schrader, never ever pour gasoline on a campfire.