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group of people gathered watching white, bright fireworks in the night sky

Tradition and Safety

Fireworks are an American tradition, used to commemorate several national holidays. For instance, Independence Day firework displays date back to the United States’ first birthday on July 4, 1777. Nevertheless, fireworks are much older than the United States and even the discovery of the Americas. Their creation dates back more than 2,000 years with their origin beginning in China.

Aerial fireworks first appeared around the year 1200 thanks to the use of gunpowder as a propellent. But the colorful displays associated with modern firework displays began in the 1830s when specific metals were added to the mixture, creating the reactions needed to produce colored explosions other than simply the typical orange.

orange, bright, colorful fireworks

These beautiful displays of shapes, colors and designs still wow spectators and provide entertainment for the masses every year. Innovations have made them bigger, better and safer especially over the last 200 years. These innovations, along with better and faster production methods, make them more available to not just professionals but to the public.

group of friends gathered around using sparklers

 

The increase in commercial availability means that it is much easier to participate in or view fireworks displays of all sizes, from small backyard family shows to city-sponsored events. No matter the changes in safety standard, they are still very dangerous objects, especially when they are mishandled, or when proper precautions are not followed. So, the only safe way to enjoy fireworks is watching professional displays because in the hands of an average person they can be extremely dangerous with the potential for severe injury, fire or death.

Health and Safety Risks

Each year, fireworks cause thousands of injuries and burns with the majority to the extremities and head. Children are especially susceptible to firework injuries as individuals under 15 years old make up one third of victims. Children ages 10-14 have the highest rate of injury of any group.

man with bandage on bleeding hand

Many people think of fireworks as the high flying and explosive displays seen on television or hosted by local government or private business; however, not all fireworks are explosive, as sparklers cause about a quarter of fireworks injuries. Handheld fireworks may seem safe compared to more explosive items, but they burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit which can cause third-degree burns. Glowsticks are a safe alternative to sparklers, as they are colorful and longer lasting than individual sparklers. Another potential alternative is silly string, as it is safe and encourages playful interactions.

Fireworks also pose a risk of starting avoidable fires as approximately 20,000 fireworks-related fires occur annually. These can range from structure fires that could fully engulf a home to brush fires that can quickly spread and threaten a lot of lives and property depending upon the weather conditions.

Public Safety Concerns

Additional medical and fire calls from fireworks put a strain on the public safety sector during the summer months. The uptick in calls mean crews are working a higher volume of calls that are of a higher severity. This puts them at a higher risk of injury or death as they work to stop the spread of a fire or help a victim of a fireworks-related injury.

If you are looking to safely enjoy fireworks this upcoming holiday season, Polk County has many professionals displays. You can make a day of it attending the many activities offered during the various events from concerts to baseball games before enjoying the main event, the fireworks display.

Polk County Firework Displays

Saturday, June 29

City of Eagle Lake – Patriotic Celebration | Eagle Lake Park | 5-9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 3

City of Lakeland – Red, White and Kaboom | Frances Langford Promenade | 6-9 p.m.

City of Winter Haven – Rock N’ Freedom Fest | Dr. Martin Luther King Park | 6-9 p.m.

Thursday, July 4

LEGOLAND® Florida Resort – Red, White & BOOM! | Legoland | 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

City of Bartow – Fourth of July Celebration | Mosaic Park | 2:30-9:30 p.m.

City of Davenport – Fourth of July Celebration | Lewis Mathews Sports Complex | 3-9:45 p.m.

City of Lake Wales – Rockin’ the Ridge | Lake Wailes Park | 3-10 p.m.

Haines City – Thunder on the Ridge | Lake Eva Park | 4-9:30 p.m.

Lakeland Flying Tigers – Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular | Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium | 5-9 p.m.

Town of Dundee – Fourth of July Fireworks Display | Dundee Community Center | 5-9:30 p.m.

City of Auburndale – Fourth of July Fireworks Display | Lake Ariana | 9-10 p.m.

For a full list and details: Fourth of July Events in Central Florida 2024

 

Fireworks: Ways to Stay Safe and Enjoy the Show

Family reviewing hurricane emergency plan for Polk County, Florida

Polk County hurricane flags blowing in the wind during storm

Hurricane season is beginning in Florida. Whether you’re new to Central Florida or a seasoned Floridian, it’s crucial to be prepared for this hurricane season.

Now more than ever Polk County is home to people who have never experienced a hurricane. But you’ve come to the right place for information! We can help you learn everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season in Florida from sandbags to shelters.

“Preparation is the key when it comes to hurricane season,” said Paul Womble, director of Polk County’s Emergency Management Division. “The season runs from June through November, although hurricanes can happen outside of that timeframe, and experts are predicting a very active season. That’s not a reason to panic, though. It’s a reason to prepare.”

What is Hurricane Preparation?

OK, let’s talk about hurricane preparation. Here are some things you can do to be ready:

  • Make sure you have enough supplies for your household, including medications and pet food, in an emergency “go bag.” View a video about assembling a disaster supply kit here, and you can access a hurricane shopping list here.
  • If someone in your household has a disability, identify if you need extra assistance in case of an emergency. For example, you may need assistance if you use medical supplies that require electricity. If necessary, reach out to officials by calling (863) 298-7027. You also can get more information by visiting Special Needs Emergency Management.
  • Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents, e.g., driver licenses, are up-to-date. Make a list of your digital documents and save them on a USB drive or external hard drive. This will be useful during and after a tropical storm or hurricane. This list will help you start recovering quickly and efficiently if a disaster damages your home or important documents.
  • Review your hurricane emergency plan with your family. Visit https://www.floridadisaster.org/planprepare/ for detailed planning information.
  • Sign up for Polk County emergency warnings by visiting alertpolk.com.

People walking through a flooded area in Polk County, Florida, dragging a boat after a hurricane.

But Polk County isn’t Near the Water!

We need to address a common Central Florida misconception. Contrary to popular belief, Polk County is not safe from hurricane damage simply because we are located inland. The dangers of hurricanes do not come just from coastal storm surges.

According to the National Weather Service, “flooding is the second-leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones.” Winds, meanwhile, can cause signs, roofing materials and other heavy debris to become flying missiles. The National Hurricane Center warns of the different hurricane hazards including heavy rainfall & inland flooding, high winds and tornadoes.

In 2004, three hurricanes – Charley, Jeanne and Francis – battered Polk County. Thanks to extreme rain, flooding and wind, 15 residents died and the storms caused an estimated $1.2 billion in damage to Polk County.

To reiterate, we are not safe just because we’re not in a coastal area. We don’t necessarily have to evacuate – Polk County typically takes a “shelter in place” approach unless officials advise otherwise – but we need to take preparation seriously. In particular, residents living in mobile homes or manufactured homes should pay close attention to updates from officials.

Hurricane Evacuation and Hurricane Shelters in Polk County

If you already have a seven-day survival kit put together, and you have a disaster plan in place, here are Polk County’s recommended hurricane evacuation options.

  • Remain in your residence in an emergency, if possible.
  • Evacuate to the home of friends or relatives.
  • Evacuate the area. Leave 48-72 hours before the storm is expected to hit.
  • Evacuate to a hotel/motel. Make arrangements early, as rooms will fill up.
  • Evacuate to a public shelter. Visit a Publix Super Market to obtain a Polk County Public Shelter Map or find a public shelter online.

Not all public shelters are automatically activated for each emergency. They are opened as needed and are not pre-assigned by geographic area. Have your seven-day survival kit ready to take with you. Weapons and alcoholic beverages are not allowed in any public shelter.

During an emergency, please monitor Polk County’s website, social media and Polk County Government Television, as well as other local television and radio stations, for open shelter information.

It’s important to include pets in your family’s emergency plans. If you need to evacuate, your pets need to evacuate, too. Pets that are left behind are likely to end up lost, injured or worse. Visit the FAQs section at Polk County Emergency Management for more information.

What Do You Need to Know About Special Needs Shelters?Polk County special needs shelter for hurricanes and other emergencies

A special needs shelter is an emergency facility capable of providing special medical or nursing care which does not necessitate an acute care hospital setting. Eligible persons desiring special needs sheltering should preregister with Emergency Management. Although special needs shelters provide more care than a general shelter, they do not provide the level of care found in a medical facility.

Visit https://www.polk-county.net/public-safety/emergency-management/special-needs/ for more information on special needs shelters.

For more information on prepping for disasters, visit https://www.polk-county.net/public-safety/emergency-management/ or go to Polk County Emergency Management’s social media accounts:

Let’s Get Ready for Hurricane Season in Florida

Person with backpack sprayer spraying for mosquitos.

Mosquitoes are near the top of the list of annoying things. They make it hard to enjoy outdoor activities, especially from dusk till dawn, when they’re the most active. And, as summer arrives, this is when we want to be outside. It’s a time for cookouts and hangouts.

Unfortunately, though, mosquitoes are more than annoying. They can be deadly.polk county scientist looking at water sample

Though they are small, mosquito bites pack a powerful punch. Have you ever heard of West Nile virus? How about malaria, Zika virus, Chikungunya virus or Dengue? Mosquitoes can carry them, and one bite from an infected mosquito can lead to debilitating disease and even death for a human or animal.

Fortunately, Polk County’s Mosquito Control Program has been protecting public health since 1958, monitoring and managing the county’s mosquito population. The program uses science to benefit Polk County’s residents, utilizing sophisticated techniques to stay on top of what’s happening with our mosquito population and to reduce public threats.

“We keep what happens in less developed countries, where thousands of people die each year due to mosquito-borne diseases, from occurring in Polk County,” said Jackson Mosley, Ph.D., manager of the Mosquito Control Program. “We are a strong line of defense.”

Thanks a Lot, Polk County Water!

There’s a lot of water in Polk County. Anybody who boats or fishes appreciates our 500 lakes and wetlands. Guess who else appreciates all the county’s water? Yep, the mosquitoes!

Even more than the lakes and wetlands, however, the mosquitoes like our ditches and ponds. In lakes, fish eat mosquito larvae. Predators are absent in smaller, temporary bodies of water, though, allowing the mosquito population to go unchecked.

The Methods for “Mosquito Control” are Larviciding and Adulticiding

mosquito control helicopter spraying over area“In an ideal world, we would simply stop mosquitoes from breeding,” said Mosley. “But that’s not possible. First, mosquitoes play an important role in the food chain. Many predators eat them. Second, human development provides mosquitoes with perfect larval habitats. They can literally use anything that holds water to make a home.”

Since stopping mosquitoes from breeding is out of the question, Mosquito Control utilizes larviciding and adulticiding. OK, so what exactly do those two words mean?

Larviciding

Larviciding takes place when a Mosquito Control employee applies mosquito larvae-specific bacteria or growth regulator into a ditch or pond to control the immature stages of mosquitoes or to prevent larvae from becoming adult mosquitoes.

Adulticiding

Adulticiding is another form of treatment, and it is typically the last effort to control mosquitoes. Often performed by vehicle or helicopter, adulticide treatments can have minimal effects on other insects when properly applied. Adulticiding is done at night when adult mosquitoes are most active and when most non-target insects, like bees, dragonflies, and butterflies, are not as active.

It’s important to note that there’s an exact science to everything Mosquito Control does. For example, there is no larviciding or adulticiding schedule. Instead, these techniques are used only when research shows that they are needed and will be effective.

Additionally, Mosquito Control always uses techniques that present the least amount of harm to creatures other than mosquitoes. They take a strategic approach. For example:

  • If they use a chemical spray, Mosquito Control rotates the chemicals used so mosquitoes do not build up a resistance.
  • When Mosquito Control is planning to spray, they alert the beekeeping community so that honeybees, who play an important pollination role in society, can be protected.

How Else Are Mosquitoes Controlled?

“We use an integrated approach,” said Mosley, who oversees Mosquito Control’s 16 employees and seasonal workers. “We don’t reach for the chemical gun immediately. Instead, we do everything, from surveillance to treatments to resistance testing and public outreach.”Mosquitos under microscope.

In 2023, Mosquito Control deployed more than 3,600 traps in Polk County, capturing hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes. The mosquito specific traps are placed near populated areas on a weekly basis, and these traps are baited with dried ice that emits carbon dioxide as it melts to mimic human breath. This attracts mosquitoes.

The trapped mosquitoes are taken to a lab and placed under a microscope. They are each counted and identified by species.

“The monitoring and identification process is so important,” Mosley said. “Determining what species are in the county alerts us to what potential diseases we need to be aware of. That will drive our treatment approach and help us react quickly to possible threats.”

Polk County also has a sentinel chicken program. There are eight county-owned chicken coups throughout Polk, each with multiple chickens that are tested each week for virus activity. This allows Mosquito Control to identify potential diseases being carried by mosquitoes.

For fellow animal lovers, know that the chickens have good lives. They are not harmed, they eat well and are well cared for, and they also get to enjoy retirement after working for a period of time.

Are Mosquitoes Truly Evil?

Mosquito under microscopeMosley said that, while he understands why most people despise mosquitoes, they are not evil creatures. Instead, they typically become hijacked by viruses when they bite an infected host during blood feeding.

“They get nothing from infecting us,” Mosley said. “That’s not their goal.”

And there’s even a so-called “good” mosquito, Mosley added. Its larvae preys on other mosquito larvae and the adults do not need blood, so they do not bite people or animals.

Nevertheless, most female mosquitoes do indeed bite people and, even if they’re not carrying disease, that’s reason enough to dislike them. So, what can you do to minimize the bites?

 

 

You Can Be Part of the Solution

In addition to applying a repellant such as DEET to your skin, Mosley says you can practice something he calls “source reduction.”

“Eliminate containers that hold water,” Mosley said. “Whether it’s a tire, a flowerpot, a toy or a birdbath, get rid of it, or drain and cover it. When they’re wet, these things are great places for mosquitoes to have their eggs in and produce more mosquitoes.”

Visit https://www.polk-county.net/services/mosquito-control/ for more information.

 

Mosquito Control Protects Polk County

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