With the extra time off from work, the longer and warmer days, and the never-ending lineup of outdoor parties, there’s an awful lot to look forward to during the summer season.
But summer comes with its very own special set of hazards. Pool parties and daylong barbecues should be memorable events—but not because they ended in trips to the ER. Or (gulp) worse.
Since June is National Safety Month, we’re bringing you a few foolproof ways to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe (and free of pesky hospital bills). Check out these tips to avoid summer’s most common accidents.
1. Avoid poisoning friends and family
Whether you’re hosting the annual neighborhood bash, or just helping friends with theirs, it's important to remember that backyard barbecues can end abruptly and badly if proper safety isn’t taken into consideration. Sure, there are all sorts of flame-related perils (more on that below). But even more of a danger is the food itself—and not necessarily for the reasons you might expect.
An estimated 1,700 Americans went to an emergency room between 2002 and 2014 after ingesting food that had wire bristles from the grill brush, according to a study in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
“Use a pumice stone or rough pad [to clean the grill] instead," says designer Pablo Solomon of Austin, TX. "And be certain to rinse it and completely wipe off any residue.”
Keep in mind general food safety tips as well: Purchase a meat thermometer to make sure things get cooked properly and remember to store perishables in the fridge rather than leave them outside in the heat.
2. Prioritize pool safety
Maybe you think you have pool safety covered. You added a fence around the pool, and you keep an eye on it regularly. But there are a few steps you might have missed.
“A common summer safety hazard is people slipping on wet surfaces by the pool,” says Kobi Karp, architect and principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design.
If your deck gets extra slippery when wet, it might be time to invest in some supplementary materials to protect you and your guests from bad falls.
“Keep wet surfaces safe by using slip-resistant textures and flooring around the pool,” Karp says. “There are plenty of options homeowners can use ranging from turf grass, carpets, or even terrazzo floors.”
Another critical component of pool safety: Check the quality of your water. Use a natural pool enzyme to clear any contaminants that might have gotten into your pool during the winter months, recommends Troy Lindbeck, vice president of marketing for Pinch a Penny, a pool and spa supply company.
Remember to clean pool areas carefully before guests come over, and after bad storms that may leave behind hazardous debris.
3. Prevent grill fires and burns
"Burning Down the House" is a pretty rad song, but like most accidents, no one really sees a fire coming until the damage is done.
If you’re hosting an outdoor party that includes a grill or fire pit, be sure you’re following some common-sense fire safety to avoid, well, burning down the house.
Check your propane grill regularly for leaks, and clean it often to avoid grease fires.
It’s also a good idea to use the grill away from your house and guests, says Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, to minimize the risk of someone walking by and getting burned, or a stray spark catching fire on a nearby railing or overhanging branch.
Karp has an even better solution for upgrading your grilling game (if you have the means, that is): “When it comes to safety and barbecues, homeowners should ditch the free-standing grill and opt for a built-in summer kitchen,” he says. “They are much safer and add an element of luxury to any home.”
You can also consider creating a recessed lounge for fire pits.
“They give the space not only a protective boundary but also a private and cozy feel,” Karp says.
4. Hunker down for summer storms
For most of the U.S., summer is a season of relatively perfect weather—at least, until a huge storm comes rolling in with no notice. Whether you live in an area prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, or severe thunderstorms, you should, at the very least, prepare your home and invest in surge protectors to make sure appliances don’t fry out.
(Don't just unplug your appliances ahead of a storm: “Unplugging your appliances in advance is not practical for everything—the food in your refrigerator will likely spoil, and your frozen foods will thaw,” Shimek says.)
You should also update your homeowner's insurance policy, like, right now. Don't wait until your basement is flooded to purchase additional insurance.
Depending on where you live, have an emergency kit and evacuation route ready. Buy window covers to protect your home from dangerous winds, invest in a generator, and stock up on batteries for flashlights and lanterns. Look into purchasing a solar- or battery-powered radio to stay up to date with news in case you lose cellphone reception.
And, for goodness' sake, don't drive during heavy rains—since the majority of flood-related deaths occur from walking or driving into hazardous floodwaters.