Local agencies promote holiday safety

GALLIPOLIS — With the River Recreation Festival and Fourth of July celebrations fast approaching, local law enforcement and fire officials are urging Gallia County residents to play it safe in terms of fireworks safety.

“I was told that anything that gets up off the ground is probably illegal to use,” Gallipolis Police Chief Clint Patterson said about fireworks. “Anything that you can hold in your hand is probably going to be OK … things like sparklers. We’re going to be keeping an eye out for anyone doing any unsafe practices in town.”

Patterson recommended as few things for parents in regards to keeping their kids safe over upcoming festivities.

“First thing, keep your cell phone charged. Take a picture of your child with your cell phone. That way if you get separated, we (police) have a very recent picture of what the child is actually wearing. You’d be surprised how much easier that makes them to find inside a crowd,” Patterson said.

Patterson said two or three children a day may get lost during the festival. He said that normally it’s about a five-minute search before a child is found. At worst, he said some children have been separated from their parents for as much as 30 minutes.

“It can be a scary time for both parents and the child,” Patterson said. “We recommend that you write, with a black magic marker, your cell phone on your child’s arm so that when we find them we can call the parents.”

The Gallia County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement saying parents should keep children in sight at all times and teach them to remain close to family, especially in large crowds. Parents should speak with their children about “what being lost means and what to do if they become lost.”

Parents are advised by the sheriff that if a child does get lost, don’t look for them alone. They should contact local security or law enforcement as fast as possible. Dress children in brightly-colored clothing. Parents should contemplate the possibility of giving a cell phone to younger children as a safety net. Children should be taught that it is “OK to say no and get away from any person or situation that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused.”

Keith Elliot, Gallipolis fire chief, said,” Fireworks and the Fourth of July just go hand in hand, but let’s leave the fireworks displays to the professionals.”

Assistant Fire Chief Mike Null noted that anytime fireworks or cooking fires are involved, people should use “common sense.” He said fires must be 1,000 feet away from any building and must be kept small for cooking or heat. The radiant heat from a fire can quickly and easily melt the vinyl sidings of homes.

Elliot noted that novelty and trick fireworks such as snakes, sparklers and smoke bombs are legal to use, but require adult supervision.

“Even sparklers, which burn around 1,200 degrees, cause a substantial number of burn injuries each year to children and adults. Many of these injuries result in a trip to the emergency room,” he said.

Fireworks such as bottle rockets, Roman candles, cherry bombs or firecrackers are illegal to use or possess in Ohio, Elliot said.

“According to the National Fire Protection Association, two out of five fires reported on July 4 are started by fireworks,” Elliot.

The fire chief also recommended that fireworks be kept away from pets as they can often frighten them or prove to be dangerous.

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.