As residents gear up for the Fourth of July, many can expect plenty of fireworks between now and then. However, often forgotten in the midst of the fun are those who have trouble dealing with the loud noises produced by the sparkle and shine of fireworks.
With any holiday that brings out fireworks, it can be a difficult time for veterans for a plethora of reasons. Large crowds, sudden flashes of light and sharp, booming noises can trigger painful memories for those who were once combatants, making a day which most people enjoy become a day full of stress for others.
There is plenty of things friends, family and community members can do to help make the holiday more enjoyable for veterans, whether they are just returning from deployment or have been home for years.
The number one thing to do is ask a simple question: How would you like to spend the day?
According to an interview from a previous Register story with Cynthia Dunn, who works for the Lexington Veteran Affairs Medical Center, said for those who struggle with loud noises or big crowds, take them some place quiet can help.
“Maybe limit the amount of people you have over or give them time to take a break away from all the activity,” Dunn said.
Sometimes being in a quiet place away from all of the excitement can help veterans from becoming too stressed. Some veterans are okay with fireworks if they know before it happens. But if a veteran is exposed to an overstimulating situation, especially without prior notice, they could become upset, panicked or believe there is a threat of danger.
While this means a potential adjustment in how the Fourth of July is celebrated over the next week, being considerate to a veteran and their needs can go a long way.
An app has been developed for smartphones called PTSD Coach, which allows veterans to find comfort quickly if they are suffering from anxiety or becoming distressed due to the large crowds and booming noises. Veterans can also find solace by calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, then pressing one.
One other way to help veterans is by helping to foster community awareness, so everyone can help.
Fireworks and pets
Veterans are not the only ones who have difficulty dealing with loud noises and bright, flashing lights. Our beloved family pets, whether it's man's best friend or a pet parakeet, also have trouble when it comes to the Fourth of July. Pet owners should take into account how the Fourth of July festivities might effect them, especially before taking them out to a public function.
The Humane Society lists four tips for pet owners for the holiday:
• Leave pets indoors with a TV or radio on to drown out the noise. Create a safe space to distract them. If you need to take them out, or if you plan on taking them with you to an event, make sure they stay leashed and under control at all times.
• Ask your veterinarian about any medications or techniques that can help alleviate your pets' anxiety.
• High heat puts pets at risk of heat stroke. Don't leave pets in hot cars or leave them outside for extended periods of time. Make sure they have water available, as well.
• Make sure they are microchipped, collared and have identification in the event that they try to escape.
Another thing to keep in mind is firework safety. With plenty of tents set up selling fireworks for personal use, here are a few tips to keep in mind from The National Council on Fireworks Safety, which aims to teach the public about safe and responsible firework use.
• Alcohol and fireworks don't mix
• Always have water on hand.
• Wear eye protection.
• Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak the dud in water.
• Have a designated firework shooter who knows how to properly use the fireworks.
• Never use illegal, homemade or professional fireworks.
• Follow local laws and ordinances about fireworks.
According to Richmond's city ordinances, fireworks can only be used between the hours of 10 a.m. and 9 p.m., with the exception of Dec. 31, July 3 and 4, and Memorial Day, which then allows fireworks until midnight. No person under 18 is allowed to ignite, fire, or explode fireworks, and no fireworks can be used within 200 feet of any structure.