Fourth of July Fellowship, Festivities, and Fireworks: 7 Spotlights on Safety

If your ministry is planning an event this July 4th, prioritize safety for a successful gathering. Picnic buffets, lawn games, bounce houses, and fireworks can combine to create a family fun event. But each activity comes with its own set of risks. With a strong focus on safety, you can enjoy the excitement of the holiday while minimizing the risk. 

When planning your Fourth of July event, consider these seven areas of concern:

1. Medical emergencies

Have a CPR trained staff member or medical team volunteers on hand to respond in case of medical emergencies. Ideally, at least two people should be present during the event. Appoint someone within the ministry to provide critical help with emergency calls. Keep a stocked first aid kit and a CPR kit nearby. 

2. Heat exhaustion

Fourth of July activities are often outside, which means people may be vulnerable to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Set aside space in the shade or an air-conditioned room where people can take a break from the sun, cool down, and rehydrate. Consider stocking a few instant cold packs to quickly cool a participant suffering from overheating. Encourage water breaks during sports, games, and other activities.

3. Food poisoning

Don’t let bad food spoil the fun. If your event includes a picnic buffet, be sure to address food safety guidelines. There are the four steps to help prevent food poisoning: clean, separate, cook, and chill.Clean and sanitize food preparation areas. Cook, store, and serve food at correct temperatures; hot foods should be held at 140° F or warmer, and cold foods should be held at 40° F or colder. Do not leave food out for more than two hours. Label food items for guests with allergies.

You also may consider posting Safe Handling and Serving Guidelines in your food staging area or kitchen. 

4. Injuries from inflatables

Bounce houses, slides, obstacle courses and floating inflatables can lead to serious injuries if improperly set up, left unsupervised. Only rent inflatables from a reputable company that employs people who are trained and experienced. Require written instructions on how to safely use the equipment.

Pay attention to weather—high winds and inflatables are a dangerous combination. And always contact your insurance agent to discuss your ministry’s liability exposure for inflatables prior to the event.

Read more do’s and don’ts of inflatable safety.

5. Boating Safety

Good planning and a high regard for boating safety will help make sure everyone enjoys fun in the sun. To start, ensure all equipment—including onboard life-saving equipment—is in good condition. Make it a requirement that participants wear a life jacket.

And the rules for driving on the road apply to boat operators, too, so be sure to promote distraction-free piloting. Always have a second adult on board to supervise passengers. This allows the pilot to focus on the water and helps minimizes mental and visual distractions. 

Keep an eye out for approaching storms, especially those with lightning. Lightning can travel about ten miles from a thunderstorm. If you hear thunder, you are close enough to a storm to be in danger of a lightning strike.2 Call everyone on open water back to shore immediately and seek shelter. 

6. Use of Fireworks

The safest way to enjoy a fireworks display is from afar. Doing so reduces much of the risk that comes with fireworks at a Fourth of July event. Between 2006 and 2021, injuries from fireworks climbed 25% in the U.S.; in 2021, an estimated 11,500 people were treated in ERs for injuries associated with fireworks.3 Injuries to hands, fingers, head, face, ears, and eyes were the most common. 

If you decide to host a fireworks display on your property, the safer option is to hire a professional pyrotechnician. Because fireworks are dangerous explosives that can cause fires or serious injuries if mishandled, do not allow a ministry volunteer, employee, or attendee to launch fireworks for the crowd. Also, take the time to learn about and comply with local ordinances and safety codes.

Here’s a good reminder: Sparklers are fireworks, too. They account for more than 25% of fireworks-related ER visits.4 Sparklers can ignite clothing and cause severe burns to hands and feet when dropped. 

7. Review Property and Liability Coverage

Before hosting a Fourth of July event, check with your insurance agent, ask questions, and be thorough in describing your plans. Your agent can address issues, if any, and options for coverage and policy limits to fit the occasion.

More Resources

1 “Fast Facts About Food Poisoning.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 17 May 2023. 

2 “Understanding Lightning: Thunder.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service. Accessed 17 May 2023.  

3 “Fireworks Injuries & Deaths: 2021 Report.” United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Accessed 18 May 2023. 

4 “Fireworks Safety.” National Security Council. Accessed 18 May 2023. 

Updated May 2023

The information provided on this article is intended to be helpful, but does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.