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Summer Picnic Safety Tips

Keep your picnics safe this summer!

Keep your picnics safe this summer!

Summer months are a great time for picnicking with family and friends. Flies and other insects can be rather annoying, but the “bugs” you can’t see can be extremely harmful. Bacteria love the warm humid weather and grow more quickly in the summer than any other time of the year. The number of people who get sick during the hot months of the year is much greater. So read over the following tips to beat bacteria at your summer picnic.

Keep it Clean!

■ Find out if your picnic destination has a source of safe drinking water. If not, bring water or moist towelettes for cleaning hands and surfaces.

■ Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Unwashed hands are a major cause of foodborne illness. Use moist towelettes if hand-washing facilities are not available.

■ Be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating other foods in the cooler.

■ Pack enough clean utensils for both eating and serving food. Don’t use the same utensil or platter for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Disposable plates and utensils help prevent cross-contamination.

■ Keep foods covered to prevent insects from enjoying your lunch!

Keep Cold Foods Cold!

■ Keep perishable foods cool by transporting them in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Perishable foods include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, pasta, rice, cooked vegetables, and peeled and cut fruits and vegetables.

■ Pack the cooler just before leaving home. Foods chilling in your refrigerator should be placed directly in your cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.

■ Avoid frequently opening coolers containing perishable food. It’s a good idea to store beverages and perishable foods in separate coolers.

Keep the cooler in an air-conditioned vehicle during travel and in the shade at the picnic site.

Some other resources to help or share:

UF IFAS Picnic Safety Video

UF IFAS Food Safety Factsheet for Potlucks

Fun Picnic Ideas to Try this Summer

Do you have a passion or skills that you would like to pass on to the next generation of parents, employees, civic leaders, and decision makers?  4-H needs caring adults from a wide variety of backgrounds, skills and experiences. For more information, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit

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Safety First When Enjoying Fireworks in Florida

Safety First When Enjoying Fireworks in Florida

Use sparklers in an open area and keep pets and small children away. Photo by John Paul Tyrone Fernandez

Sparklers and fireworks have often been a highlight of celebrations throughout the summer months. While enjoying your summer celebrations, it is important to know that Florida has strict firework laws. According to the South Walton Fire District’s July 4th PSA Transcript, under current Florida law, only sparklers approved by the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal are legal to use. A person responsible for illegally setting off fireworks may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. The State Fire Marshal’s website is home to a list of approved sparklers which you can here.


While many do not view sparklers as extremely dangerous, they still have the potential to be very dangerous. If you are enjoying approved sparklers at home, use the 5 following tips to help prioritize safety while enjoying the holiday.

  • Use sparklers in an open area and keep pets and small children away
  • Keep a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby for emergencies.
  • Do not carry or store sparklers in pockets.
  • Purchase sparklers from a licensed vendor.
  • Use a bucket of water to collect the used sparklers. Sparklers may cause fires if not  thoroughly extinguished.


Consider taking your family to a professional fireworks show this year. Photo by Peter Spencer

4th of July firework shows are exciting for people of all ages to watch.  However, fireworks can be very costly, dangerous to setup and most require special permits in certain settings and conditions.  Consider taking your family to a professional fireworks show in your area.  Make it a family tradition, complete with a family picnic for the evening.  Often times, churches and civic organizations will provide professional firework displays with free food for the entire family, just to keep everyone safe for the evening.

There are numerous professional fireworks shows put on throughout the Florida Panhandle. Click here for a list of firework shows on the 4th of July. Be safe and enjoy the beautiful Florida weather!

Happy Independence Day!



Solutions for a Happy Independence Day!

It’s Fourth of July weekend and time to celebrate our independence with family and friends.  This week, we wanted to share with you some tips and tricks to make your celebration fun, yummy and safe! We’ve compiled a list of previous posts that you might want to reference for this weekend:

Photo by Jill Wellington

Photo by Jill Wellington

Ultimate Guide to a Safe and Fun 4th of July!

4-H Kids at a 4th of July Picnic.

 Photo credit: UF IFAS Photography

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays!  Growing up it was the time that my family (even those distant cousins) gathered together for a weekend of fun, food, and fireworks. There is nothing worse than spending your holiday sick or injured, so we have complied plenty of resources to help you plan a celebration that is fun, but also keeps everyone safe:

We hope you have a fabulous 4th of July and that these tips and resources add to the fun!

Having Fun While Being Safe with Fireworks

FireworksThey wiz, sparkle, pop and twirl. They thrill and sometimes scare us. Do you recall the first sparkler that you got to hold? Was it an exciting, magical experience, or did you get burned?  Do you really know how hot a sparkler can get?  Most children are rarely concerned with safety,  It is up to the adults to keep them safe.  This is especially true when it comes to fireworks. We know that as the Fourth of July is approaching, many will have their own personal fireworks show.   Believe it or not, over 11,000 injuries occur each year (more than half of them happen around Forth of July celebrations).

Most cities offer a free fireworks show around this time of year.  I highly recommend taking in city fireworks show and foregoing a personal one. You won’t have to worry about all the logistics of a personal fireworks display. You’ll just have to worry about getting a good viewing spot and the traffic.  If you are still set on setting off fireworks, keep reading.

First of all, consider the Law.  Are you able to purchase and launch fireworks in your town or city?  Do you know if the fireworks you have purchased are legal in Florida?  Many of the fireworks sold at road side stands are not, such as firecrackers and roman candles.  Setting off illegal fireworks can result in up to a year in prison and $1,000 in fines.  Second, work out safety procedures ahead of time.   Carefully consider these three safety areas; personal, property, and environment.Here’s a checklist to help ensure a fun but SAFE fireworks experience for friends and family (also available as a printable PDF)

Personal Safety:

  • Do you have a first aid kit on hand? Sparklers can burn up to a temperature of 2,000 thousand degrees (glass melts at only 900 degrees).
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher and do you know how to use it?
  • Is water available to douse dud fireworks or to put out a fire? Put another adult in charge of dousing dud fireworks and to be on “spark” lookout. Have hoses and water buckets at the ready.
  • Are you familiar with the fireworks you plan to shoot? Only handle fireworks you know and heed all warnings. Leave the professional (or illegal) fireworks to the permitted professionals.
  • Have you refrained from alcohol? Alcohol and the handling of fireworks is not a good mix.
  • How will you ignite the fireworks to protect yourself if it goes off before it should? Make sure to not place your body over a firework when you are lighting it.
  • Sometimes fireworks do not go off like they should. Leave it alone for several minutes to be sure it really is a dud. Don’t try to relight it. Douse with water before disposing of it.
  • Have you communicated safety ground rules to the guests (and especially the children)?
    • Stay in the clearly marked safe zone
    • Adults only should handle all the fireworks
    • It is not recommended that children handle fireworks. If a child is given a sparkler, he should be carefully monitored at all times.

Property Safety:

  • Does the launch area have a large enough radius to prevent fireworks from landing on any structures, such as a house, garage, or vehicle?
  • Have you informed your neighbors? It is courteous to inform your neighbors when you plan to host an event especially one that involves fireworks.

Environmental Safety:

  • Have you checked the weather? Has it been really dry in your area? Is there a temporary ban on burning? Will it be windy?

Let not your event be the cause of the story being told about how Uncle Gump lost the tip of his finger. We also don’t want to have to replace our neighbor’s grass or garage. Keep it fun while being safe and share these tips with your friends.  If you would like great information on how to photograph fireworks, see our archived article on fireworks photography by Georgene Bender.

Here are some additional links on fireworks safety that you may find helpful:

Next week, Monica Brinkley will share food safety tips for your next picnic or barbeque!   Your opinion matters to us- please take this short survey to provide feedback to help us improve this blog