Summer Safety Tips

Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

July 8, 2003


Summer Safety Tips

Summertime has begun and Fairfax County has numerous resources available for county residents to access to ensure that their summer is a safe one.

Fireworks Safety
The July 4 holiday means fireworks. Parents are encouraged to remind children that fireworks are explosive devices, not toys. Left to professionals, fireworks can be a spectacular addition to holidays and celebrations, but in the hands of amateurs, fireworks can turn the festivities into tragedy. Also remember that many fireworks are not available in Northern Virginia because they are illegal. The possession of unapproved fireworks is prohibited in Fairfax County and they will be confiscated; Persons possessing them may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of $2,500 and/or one year in jail. Any firework which explodes, emits a flame, sparks or performs as a projectile higher than 12 feet is prohibited by the Fairfax County Fire Prevention Code. If you do plan to enjoy approved fireworks, you should have water available for extinguishing discarded fireworks or in case of an emergency, light them one at a time, keep bystanders at least 20 feet away, never throw fireworks, do not permit children to handle or light fireworks (sparklers can reach a temperature of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit), and read the directions before usage. For more information on fireworks safety, contact Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Public Information and Life Safety Education, 703-246-3801, TTY 703-385-4419, or visit

Picnics and Food Safety
Warm weather also means the picnic season has arrived. To be safe, the Health Department reminds picnickers that raw meat and poultry need to stay in a cooler with ice until thoroughly cooked. You are encouraged to keep all perishable foods, especially those made with raw eggs or mayonnaise, in the cooler as much as possible. When transporting food, keep it cold by using an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Pack food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home and keep the cooler in the coolest part of your car. Also, keep your cooler out of direct sun and keep it in the shade or under a shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler. For more information on summertime food safety, contact the Fairfax County Health Department, 703-246-2411, TTY 703-591-6435, or visit

Grilling Safety
When grilling, remember that in Fairfax County the only cooking devices permitted on apartment or condominium balconies are ones using either electricity or natural gas as a fuel source and listed by a recognized testing authority. When barbecuing, keep the grill in a level position at all times. Douse the coals thoroughly with water after grilling, and never leave children or pets unattended near a hot grill. With gas grills, check hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing. Always store the gas cylinder outside and away from the house. With charcoal grills, only use starter fluids designed for that purpose. Never use gasoline and never add more liquid fuel after the fire has started or you could have a flash fire. For more information on grill safety, contact Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Public Information and Life Safety Education, 703-246-3801, TTY 703-385-4419, or visit

The Health Department reminds outdoor grillers to always cook food to a safe internal temperature that will destroy harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to ensure that poultry reaches a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit while hamburgers made from ground beef should reach a minimum of 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, pork and seafood should reach a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Never partially grill meats, seafood or poultry to finish cooking later. After the grilling is done and it's time to eat, remember to use a clean platter when taking food off the grill. Don't put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat, seafood or poultry. In hot weather (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), food should never sit out for more than 4 hours. Leftovers should be discarded.

Safe food preparation should include frequent hand washing with warm water, soap and paper towels. When preparing food, wash your hands before you begin, and again after using the restroom, blowing your nose, coughing or using the telephone. For more on food handling and grilling, contact the Fairfax County Health Department, 703-246-2411, TTY 703-591-6435, or visit the Health Department Web page at

Don't Leave Children or Pets in the Car
Never leave children or pets in a parked car. It can be fatal. Even with the windows slightly open, the temperature in a car on an 85-degree day can reach 102 degrees in ten minutes. In 30 minutes, the temperature can reach 120 degrees. For more information, contact Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Public Information and Life Safety Education, 703-246-3801, TTY 703-385-4419, or visit

Pet Safety
If pets are kept outdoors, make sure that they have access to shade and fresh water at all times. While antifreeze is a year-round hazard for your pets (and children), cars often overheat in warmer months and may leak antifreeze, which is extremely toxic in small amounts. Call your veterinarian immediately if your pet ingests any antifreeze. For additional information, contact the Fairfax County Police Animal Control Division at 703-830-3310 (voice/TTY) or visit

Window Safety
A summer breeze may feel nice but remember to keep children away from open windows, even if they have screens. Every year hospitals treat many children who fall from windows, most of whom are under the age of 4. When possible, open windows from the top, not the bottom. Also, keep furniture away from windows so that children are discouraged from climbing near windows. For more information, contact the Department of Family Services' Child Protective Services Helpline at 703-324-7400, TTY 703-222-9452, or visit

Pool Safety
Swimming is a great way to beat the heat. Never leave children alone or out of eye contact while they are in or near the water. An adult should be within arm's length whenever an infant or toddler is in the pool. Remove toys from the area when you're not using them since toys can attract young children to the pool. All residential pools should be completely enclosed by a fence that stands at least 4 feet high and avoid fences with vertical bars spaced more than 4 inches apart and chain-link fences that are easy to climb. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching and the latch should be out of a child's reach. Prohibit diving in shallow water and in all above-ground pools. If you own a pool, require that all adults in your family learn CPR. Also, have a cordless phone and emergency equipment (such as life preservers and shepherd's crook) poolside in case of emergency. For more information, contact Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Public Information and Life Safety Education, 703-246-3801, TTY 703-385-4419, or visit

Boat Safety
Water safety includes boating and other recreational activities on ponds, lakes and streams. Children should wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets at all times when on boats or near bodies of water. Make sure the life jacket is the right size for your child and is not loose. Blow-up water toys or rafts should never be used as life jackets or life preservers. Adults should also wear life jackets for their own protection and to set a good example for children. Outfit the family pet with a life preserver as well since most dogs are not by nature excellent swimmers. Always watch the weather before and during a boating outing. Return to port as soon as you hear or see a storm. For more information, contact Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Public Information and Life Safety Education, 703-246-3801, TTY 703-385-4419, or visit

Sun Safety
Summer weather means sunshine, but children should be protected from excess exposure to the sun. Babies under 6 months should be dressed in lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats. Parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to small areas, such as the infant's face and the back of the hands. For young children, sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen use is even encouraged on cloudy days. The SPF should be at least 15. Older children are encouraged to wear a hat with a 3-inch brim or a bill facing forward and sunglasses, remain in the shade whenever possible and avoid exposure during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater and apply about one ounce per sitting for a young adult. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or perspiring. For more information, contact the Fairfax County Health Department, 703-246-2411, TTY 703-591-6435, or visit the Health Department Web page at

Child Supervision Guidelines
When school's not in session, it is sometimes necessary to leave children unattended for short periods of time, although children 7 or younger should never be left unattended. Lack of supervision is one of the most prevalent child neglect problems in Fairfax County. The following represent minimally acceptable standards for the supervision of children. These guidelines have been developed by social work professionals in collaboration with the community. There may be situations, even within these guidelines, when it is not safe to leave a child unsupervised. Parents are ultimately responsible for making decisions about their child's safety.

Whenever any child is unsupervised or unattended the following should apply:

  • There must be no emotional, medical or behavioral problems which affect judgment or
    decision-making skills.
  • Child must be comfortable being alone.
  • Child must have a safety plan worked out with the parent/caretaker and must demonstrate the ability to follow the safety plan.

Age Guidelines

  • 7 years and under: Should not be left alone for any period of time.
  • 8 to 10 years: Should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.
  • 11 to 12 years: May be left alone for up to 3 hours but not late at night or in circumstances requiring inappropriate responsibility.
  • 13 to 15 years: May be left unsupervised, but not overnight.
  • 16 to 17 years: May be left unsupervised (in some cases, for up to two consecutive overnight periods).

This information is online at or you may call the Department of Family Services' Child Protective Services Hotline at 703-324-7400, TTY 703-222-9452.

The most effective way to control mosquitoes is to tip and toss the standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Common problem areas and ways to correct them are:

  • Roof gutters - clean out leaves and debris blocking and holding water.
  • Discarded cans and containers - remove, store inside or turn upside down.
  • Old tires - store tires where they won't collect rainwater.
  • Bird baths - clean, and change the water every 5-7 days.
  • Wading pools - change water regularly and turn over when not in use.
  • Drainage ditches - keep open and free from debris holding water.
  • Canoes, boats - cover with a tight-fitting tarp or turn upside down.
  • Tarps on woodpiles or garden equipment - remove sagging areas.
  • Ornamental ponds - stock with small fish.
  • Puddles and wet or soggy areas - drain or back fill.
  • Treat standing water on your property with a lavaracide - keep mosquitoes from breeding.

To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, make sure that all window and door screens fit tightly and are free of holes that mosquitoes can use to enter the house. When outside, wear light colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants. Use insect repellent indicated for mosquitoes and follow the label instructions.

West Nile virus, a disease carried by infected mosquitoes and spread to birds, humans and other mammals through the bite of an infected mosquito, is on the rise. Taking action to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and protecting yourself when outdoors are two steps you can take to reduce your exposure to these annoying and sometimes dangerous insects. For more information on West Nile virus and how to protect yourself from mosquitoes, call the Health Department at 703-246-2300, TTY 711 or visit

The long summer days also bring out other critters in addition to mosquitoes. Enjoy our natural wildlife from a distance. Wild animals can carry rabies, a virus that attacks the nervous system and can kill any mammal, including humans. Pet owners are also reminded to have pets vaccinated every year. It's the law. For additional information, contact the Fairfax County Police Animal Control Division at 703-830-3310 (voice/TTY), the county's wildlife biologist at 703-266-3523, TTY 711, or visit

Lawn Safety
Warm weather also means grass to cut and lawn work. If children or young adults use lawnmowers, try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is released. Children under 16 years should not use ride-on mowers; children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers. Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing. Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or sticks, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower wear eye protection. Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher or unclogging the discharge chute. Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers. For more information, contact Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Public Information and Life Safety Education, 703-246-3801, TTY 703-385-4419, or visit

Heat Related Illness
When exercising or taking part in outdoor activities, you should be well-hydrated. Regular water breaks should also be taken. Children and adults should wear light-colored and lightweight clothing to help reflect some of the sun's rays. If possible, move your outdoor exercise routine to early morning or early evening hours.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, heat-related illness usually comes in stages. The first stage is heat cramps in muscles. These cramps can be very painful. If you are caring for a person who has heat cramps, have him or her stop activity and rest. If the person is fully awake and alert, have him or her drink small amounts of cool water or a commercial sports drink. Gently stretch the cramped muscle and hold the stretch for about 20 seconds, then gently massage the muscle. Repeat these steps if necessary. If the victim has no other signals of heat-related illness, the person may resume activity after the cramps stop.

The signals of the next, more serious stages of a heat-related illness (heat exhaustion/heat stroke) include cool, moist, pale skin (the skin may be red right after physical activity), headache, dizziness and weakness or exhaustion, nausea, decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness, high body temperature (sometimes as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit), a rapid, weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing. This late stage of a heat-related illness is life threatening. Call 911 and move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body by wrapping wet towels around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, wrap them in a cloth and place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. (Do not use rubbing alcohol because it closes the skin's pores and prevents heat loss.) Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Make sure the person is lying down.

For more information, contact the Fairfax County Health Department, 703-246-2411, TTY 703-591-6435, or visit the Health Department Web page at

For additional information about county programs and services, call the Fairfax County information desk at 703-324-3185, TTY 703-324-2935 or visit the Web site Residents can also call 703-324-INFO (4636) for 24 hour a day access to a menu of pre-recorded announcements on a variety of county services and programs.





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