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Use common sense this Fourth of July
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Many people are making plans for the Fourth of July holiday. This year, the Fourth takes place on a Sunday, but many employers are giving employees the day off on Monday, July 5.

Along with all the legitimate and festive activities that accompany the holiday, it is also a day when there are fires, accidents with mishandled fireworks, firearms are routinely discharged in the city limits, DUI incidents increase, as well as many other dangerous or illegal activities. The Fourth of July keeps police, fire and ambulance personnel extremely busy. And with the holiday occurring on a Sunday, there is the likelihood that there will be celebrations and people "letting loose" throughout the entire weekend. Public safety personnel are hoping for a weekend that is free of injuries, deaths, fires, arrests, damaged property, fights and the like, but since this wish represents a long shot hope, fire and police departments routinely increase staffing and patrols.

One issue that arises each Fourth of July is that many people want to have block parties for social and partying purposes. By themselves, block parties are not a problem, but we are seeing an increase of these events where the hosts have failed to obtain a permit from the city. You might ask why a permit is required, and it is a fair question. Some block parties end up with partial or full blocking of the roadway, resulting in some problems. To be clear, there are any number of streets in each city that simply cannot be closed owing to traffic volume and the need for emergency vehicle access. Permits are more likely to be issued when the block party takes place in cul-de-sacs or on streets with a low volume of traffic. Permits are issued not for the block party per se, but for the street closure.

Permits are also required is to ensure that the neighbors are supportive of the idea, that amplified music is regulated to the extent that it cannot become an excessive burden on those who are not included in the party, and that other neighborhoods are not adversely affected.

It is critical that no street closures, whatsoever, occur without being properly permitted. To do otherwise will impede the response of emergency vehicles. Police, fire and ambulance personnel need to know in advance of any detours or street blockages in the event of needing to respond emergencies. Another important aspect of this is that many block parties feature out-of-town visitors, which increases demands on fire and police personnel. It helps us to get an idea of how many block parties are taking place so that we can plan staffing needs for the police and fire departments accordingly.

There is much that can be emphasized about Fourth of July safety. The most obvious is that only "safe and sane" fireworks are permitted in most city limits. Some cities have an outright ban on fireworks because of the problems they are known to cause when handled carelessly or mishandled altogether. We ask that all fireworks activities be done with fire safety in mind. We can expect increased potential for fires owing to vegetation growth as a result of the late season rains. Keep a water supply immediately available in the event a fire starts. It is also appropriate to clean up all fireworks messes after the celebration is complete. Bottle rockets, exploding devices, and the like are prohibited by law. The mere possession of these items, let alone setting them off, is a law violation that will be strictly enforced.

Then we have the issue of people discharging firearms into the air or ground. Discharging a firearm in the city is prohibited, and frankly, quite stupid. The dangers of doing so, while obvious, seem to be of no concern or are forgotten by the fools who discharge rifles, handguns or shotguns. Stray and ricocheting bullets kill people and damage buildings and cars every year throughout the country. Police can tell the difference between the sound of a firearm or an exploding firework (which is also illegal) and our efforts to track down the sources of these discharges will be rigorous. The police will confiscate the firearms from people who illegally discharge them and violators will be booked into jail. We hear the "zero tolerance" statement all the time, and to the extent that this policy comes into play for the discharging of firearms, the police will give new meaning to the "zero tolerance" policy this year.

Everything I've listed, so far, amounts to common sense safety practices, but sometimes when violators have no regard for safety or when alcohol or other drugs reduce people's use of good judgment, that which is otherwise common sense quickly becomes sense that is not so common. We simply urge everyone to be safe, have fun and not get blown up, burned or do anything else harmful, dangerous or illegal.

Enjoy the celebration!