This Fourth of July weekend, be safe, be considerate

Happy Fourth of July weekend!  At least here at the homestead in Gray, it’s shaping up to be a beautiful, marvelous weekend.  I anticipate a weekend of grilling, sprinklers, and maybe a round of mini-golf.  Here’s hoping you and yours are able to enjoy some fund activities this holiday weekend.

Of course, two popular activities on a Fourth of July weekend will be fireworks and getting out on the water.  It’s hard to picture this holiday without those activities.  That said, as we get ready to participate in these two particular activities, there are some things to consider from a public health perspective, to make sure everyone is able to safely enjoy the holiday.

When it comes to boating, the obvious safety measure is to make sure you have a life jacket on.  Another very important safety measure, is to make sure that you are not boating impaired; under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or other substances that can make boating dangerous for the driver, passengers, and others on the water.  Last weekend, The Maine Marine Patrol was one of several law enforcement agencies that began the yearly Operation Dry Water patrol and campaign.

The Operation Dry Water efforts are part law enforcement, part raising awareness.  Statistics show nationally that one out of five boating fatalities are caused by alcohol and other drugs.  Similar to targeted, increased enforcement details around seat belts, and texting while driving, this effort is about ensuring safety while raising awareness.  Along with being extremely dangerous, operating a boat under the influence comes with hefty fines and possibly also jail time.  So, for the safety of yourself and your passengers, and to avoid entanglement with the law, keep responsible adult consumption of alcohol safely on shore, and make sure you are boating sober.

When it comes to fireworks, there are also considerations to make before enjoying this activity.  In 2012, the Maine Legislature enacted a law to legalize the possession, sale, and use of fireworks.  Now, first and foremost, before you consider buying and using fireworks you should consult with this list to see if it is legal in your municipality, as some municipalities have banned the possession and use of fireworks within their towns.  And of course, you should make sure you are following the safety guidelines and instructions from the retailer selling the fireworks, along with those guidelines accompanying the product.  The Fire Marshall also has a handy tip sheet for firework safety.

One other very important consideration before using consumer fireworks is consideration for your neighbors and neighbors who are veterans.  It is to be expected that there will be fireworks sponsored by a town or city, however it is the unexpected fireworks set off by individuals which can pose risks to veterans who have PTSD.  This is why in many parts of the country, lawn signs are made available for veterans to place in their yard to ask their neighbors to be considerate with consumer fireworks. So please be courteous when considering the use of consumer fireworks.  If you know there are veterans in your neighborhood with these signs, consider setting a specific time to use your fireworks, and provide the kindness to let your veteran neighbor when this will happen so they can plan and prepare accordingly.  And even if you aren’t sure, it will still be courteous to all neighbors, and their pets, to have a specific, designated time for your fireworks, as opposed to randomly setting them off during the day.

With these simple considerations, we can be sure that everyone enjoys a safe and relaxing Fourth of July weekend.  Enjoy your weekend, and I want to pay special recognition and respect to all of those first responders and military personnel on the clock here and abroad who aren’t able to enjoy this weekend with their families, but thanks to their service, ensure that we all have the freedoms and safety to enjoy ours.  Many thanks for all that you do!  Happy Independence Day!




Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

About Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C is a Certified Prevention Specialist and is the Director of Operations at AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, Inc. He currently serves on the Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission as well as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council. Scott volunteers as the Chair of the marijuana policy education and advocacy group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine and is the current Board President of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling. Scott also serves as a Co-chair of the Prevention & Harm Reduction task force of the Maine Opiate Collaborative, the effort convened by U.S. Attorney Thomas E Delahanty, II to address Maine's growing opiate and addiction crisis. Scott is the recipient of the 2015 Maine Public Health Association's Ruth S. Shaper Memorial Award and 2015 Healthy Androscoggin Will Bartlett Award and is also the 2013 recipient of the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse Prevention Award.