Over the past several weeks, in parts San Diego County and across the country, fireworks have barged in on our peace of night. Whether you find it good fun, annoying, or dangerous, some individuals will experience negative effects from the nightly flashes and booms. These include pets, and those with autism, anxiety or PTSD. Fire and injury risks are also pervasive. As the Fourth of July approaches, how much more of this will we see? And what can we do to mitigate the effects on those we care for?
Autism Speaks features a powerful student video that simulates what sensory overload is like. The site also includes suggestions for accommodating persons with hypersensitivities. If guardians and caretakers of those with hyper sensitivities know when and where triggers will be, they can be equipped to mitigate any discomfort. However, extreme light and sound has been bursting in on us for weeks now. For those with autism, fireworks can cause increased fear and anxiety that may affect behavior for weeks or even months afterwards.
Fireworks may be a trigger for some suffering from PTSD. Whether one of our service members or a victim of gun violence or other type of traumatic event, the bangs, booms and flashes may cause anxiety and stress. Again, knowing where and when there is a fireworks display lets people prepare. Some can enjoy fireworks in those controlled environments. The Guardian tells the story of a 7 year old who finds some joy when he can see the lights. It’s primarily the unscheduled fireworks at unexpected hours that can create an issue.
More pets run away on July 4th than any other day of the year. In 2019 the San Diego Humane Society reported nearly 150 rescued dogs and cats. Twitter is replete with examples of cowering pets struggling with our nightly shows.
Suggestions to keep your pet calm range from white noise and distractions to medications. There are a couple sure steps you can take. First, make sure your pet collars and chips are up to date. Second, reach out to your veterinarian if you have concerns. And if your pet does go missing, or if you find a lost pet, the SD Humane society lost and found page may help.
Fires and Injuries
The San Diego PD has reported a 500% increase in illegal fireworks calls compared to June last year. All consumer fireworks are illegal in San Diego County. Use or misuse can result in fires, property damage, injuries, and even fines or imprisonment. And every year SD County fire and police officials ask fireworks be left to the professionals.
The county website includes a colorful example video of the physical risks inherent in consumer fireworks. They reported in 2008 the county had 7,000 ER treated injuries due to fireworks, primarily teens and children. Also, fire season is here and we’ve already seen hundreds of acres burn this season. Fortunately our responders have been extraordinary in keeping damage and injuries to a minimum.
Recent information shows that over a third of Americans are experiencing some degree of anxiety or depression. We have previously written about the recent increase in mental health hotline calls. It bears repeating; if you are in a crisis, reach out. San Diegans have the Access and Crisis Line (ACL) available 24/7 at 1 (888) 724-7240. Nationwide you can call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Fourth of July is around the corner. In light of recent events, perhaps San Diego should celebrate with a repeat of the 15 second firework spectacular from 2012. I’d watch that again.
By Steven J.
Reviewed by: Heather Hemming