The July 4th weekend is coming up, which carries a lot of meaning to Americans and a lot of safety challenges. This year, there are extra travel warnings because July 4th is on Monday and Ramadan 2016 ends on July 5. Plus, there are the twice-yearly fireworks events that are always accompanied by fireworks safety tips that some people still ignore.
July 4th Travel Warnings and Ramadan
July 4th represents America’s independence. Its official name, of course, is Independence Day, since it is the date on which America’s 13 colonies severed ties with Great Britain in 1776. It is also celebrated with time off from work, outdoor barbecues with family and friends, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and travel.
At the same time, all over the world, terrorists have stepped up their game. They don’t need a particular date to cause havoc or kill innocent people—as we saw with the last major attacks in Paris, Brussels, and most recently in Istanbul—but they do use them as opportunities.
Ramadan month for 2016 comes to a close on Tuesday, July 5, which also means the July 4th weekend and the end of Ramadan coincide. In addition to regular travel safety tips for July 4th due to people getting together to party (which means drinking and driving), there are additional government travel warnings because of Independence Day and what the date represents, and also the timing of Ramadan.
Evidently, there are routine warnings about attacks in the U.S. over the Fourth of July weekend, but even last year, Michael Morell, a former CIA deputy director, told CBS News that there was “nothing routine about this particular one to me,” referring to an advisory issued by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States. That’s how serious this is.”
In May of this year, CNN reported that Daesh (commonly referred to as ISIS) spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani reportedly released a recording calling for more attacks on the West during the holy month of Ramadan (June). Since that month is almost over, officials expect trained terrorists and wannabe lone wolves will attempt something big in the United States in the next few days.
There are several warnings for American, Canadian, and British travelers traveling this weekend to several international locations. Also, in general, the Department of Homeland Security’s concern is that “terrorist-inspired individuals and homegrown violent extremists may be encouraged or inspired to target public events or places.”
Although the environment every single day has grown to necessitate vigilance and awareness of your surroundings, especially until the end of this month, be aware of people, behavior, and public places—events, malls, concert venues, etc. This is not to inspire fear, only awareness. As we have seen, we never know what will happen, or when, or where.
The two biggest times of year for fireworks displays, both professionally displayed and personally attempted, are New Year’s Eve and July 4th. There are a number of safety issues that should be observed anyway, but especially because of the number of serious injuries that occur every single year.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Make sure it’s legal. If you are within certain city or county limits, it may not be legal to set off fireworks.
- There are plenty of safe fireworks displays that make it easy to go watch the shows from a distance and avoid injury altogether.
- Be aware of dogs and other pets, small children, and even military veterans who might be sensitive to loud, scary sounds.
- If you must do your own fireworks, do not set them off on or near dry grass. A spark can start a fire. Look for large paved or dirt areas.
- If any firework doesn’t light the first time, assume it’s a dud and do not try to light it again. These can explode on you.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- An estimated 10,000 fireworks-related injuries sent people to emergency rooms in 2014.
- Approximately 35 percent of those estimated 10,000 fireworks-related injuries involved children under the age of 15.
- There were 11 fireworks-related deaths in 2014.
- Approximately 54 percent of fireworks injuries every year are burns.
- Fireworks caused an estimated 15,000 fires in 2014.
As with every year, please stay alert. If you are traveling this July 4th weekend, be aware of travel warnings due to the timing of Ramadan 2016, and always exercise caution and fireworks safety as a matter of practice so everybody can go home safely.
The bottom line: “Let’s be careful out there.”
[Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images]