News: Safety vital during summer festivities, activities
Story by Lance Cpl. Daniel Valle
CAMP FOSTER — During the dog days of summer, service members on Okinawa often enjoy time off with barbecues, festivals and fireworks.
Although they may seem harmless, these three things can be hazardous if not approached with safety in mind.
“When barbecuing, use lighter fluid in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidance,” said Michael Joseph, the assistant fire chief for the Marine Corps Base Camp Butler Fire Department.
“Allow the lighter fluid to soak into the charcoal before igniting it, and be sure not to wear loose clothing, which can catch on fire.”
Also, ensure the grill is not in a confined area because when burned, charcoal releases carbon monoxide, which is poisonous, according to Joseph.
A grill must be at least 10 feet from structures when in use, according to Marine Corps Bases Japan Order 11320.1, fire protection regulations and instructions.
Also, charcoal and charcoal residue should be allowed to cool before being emptied into a metal receptacle with lid. Charcoal briquettes shall not be emptied into dumpsters until 24 hours after use, according to Base Fire Order 11320.1, chapter 7.
“Some other ways to stay safe while barbecuing are to ensure the area is safe for children by fencing off the area, wear mitts, use long-handled cooking utensils, and keep the grill in an open area without any overhead obstructions, such as tree branches and canopies, to prevent them from catching on fire,” said Joseph.
During the summer months, foodborne illnesses increase as a result of people cooking and eating outside more often at events such as fairs and festivals. Sometimes, the usual safety controls a kitchen provides, like thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration and washing facilities, may not be available when cooking and dining at these events, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A safety hazard presented by festivals is the danger of crowded public areas. Festivals on Okinawa tend to get crowded quickly, so keeping safety in mind, especially where children are concerned, is extremely important.
“A few good ways to keep your children safe at festivals is to keep them with you at all times,” said Sgt. Luis R. Vela, a military policeman with the Provost Marshal’s Office at Camp Foster. “Other ways are to have your group wear the same colored shirts, so they can be easily spotted or to carry and use a whistle if you get separated.”
Also, during the summer, many people enjoy various firework displays at community festivals. However, service members should be cautious around fireworks as they can cause serious injury.
On Okinawa, the dangers presented by fireworks are diminished as the use of fireworks is prohibited for all status of forces agreement and Department of Defense personnel on Okinawa, according to Joseph.
Fireworks caused an estimated 8,600 injuries in the U.S. in 2010. Of those injuries, 73 percent were obtained June 18 through July 18, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
However, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the summer months where everyone can safely enjoy food, festivals and fireworks.
For more safety tips, call the Installation Safety Office at 645-2651.
In case of an emergency, dial 911 on any base phone, or dial 098-911-1911 when using a cellular phone.