I’m on the cusp of my 30 birthday on July 5 and I’ve learned a few things about life along the way. One lesson I’ve learned is that nothing is 100% risk free. Whether you’re jumping on a trampoline, driving a car or simply walking down the sidewalk, unexpected things can happen. Living life is all about knowing the risks, taking appropriate safety precautions and preparing for when things take an unexpected turn.

With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, I’ve been analyzing the risks of my normal holiday celebrations. One thing is apparently clear – this is not going to be “normal” Independence Day. My Fourth of July week usually entails a week-long birthday fiesta filled with camping trips, large family gatherings, parades and traveling to area attractions such as Mammoth Hot Springs just outside Gardiner for some much needed time away. But with the presence of COVID-19 and being a vulnerable individual, this year’s celebration poses a whole new gambit of personal health risks.

Like many Fourth activities (fireworks, camping, rafting or hiking) nothing’s really danger free but there are ways to participate safely and mitigate potential risks. Going camping? Bring a first aid kit. Planning a rafting trip? Wear a life vest. Grilling some tasty chicken? Have an extinguisher nearby. Like packing bear spray on hike, we can prepare to mitigate risks – both COVID-19 and non-COVID related – while still enjoying all the Fourth of July holiday.

To mitigate my own risks, I am still planning on celebrating by camping and lighting fireworks, only this year it will be with a small select few and avoiding crowds. No matter what your holiday plans, know the risks, follow safety precautions and ensure you and your family have the safest (and most fun) Independence Day possible.

Here are some normal and not so “normal” COVID-19 holiday safety tips:

Have a Blast

Planning to light things that go boom? Make sure to read and follow fireworks’ directions and keep them out of reach for children. Reading the instructions on a firework could mean all the difference between calmly spectating the light display and running from an explosive. Also, make sure to maintain 6 feet between other spectator groups outside your household to mitigate potential exposure to COVID-19. Public firework displays and rodeos have been canceled in and around Bozeman but you can still light fireworks at home.

For the Love of BBQ

Planning a barbeque? Follow the basics for handling food safely, frequently clean shared surfaces, avoid food spoilage and consider limiting the number of attendees. It’s important to remember food preparation basics such as washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before preparing food, properly storing food, and frequently sanitizing countertops. These basics are great preventive measures against foodborne illness and COVID-19. In addition, consider limiting the number of people you invite to your get-together – the more people you’re around, the more people are potentially exposed to COVID-19. Having a small BBQ with a few close friends is just as holiday-worthy as a gathering of 50 people.

Freedom to Roam

Planning a trip? Whether flying to the beach, sightseeing in Yellowstone National Park or camping in the Custer Gallatin National Forest, pack accordingly and be prepared. Bring sunscreen to protect from the sun’s rays, pack bug spray for those nasty mosquitos, and make sure your first aid kit is handy. If you’re traveling to a tourist hotspot, keep 6 feet from others outside your household and avoid crowds by avoiding high trafficked areas during peak visitation times. The great thing about sightseeing, trails and outdoor recreation is there’s lots of space! And don’t forget to bring your cloth face covering as some businesses may require them and they are recommended by the CDC where social distancing is difficult. In addition, prepare for the unexpected by checking facilities’ websites to ensure they’re open and plan for any possible restrictions due to COVID-19. Lastly, if you’re returning from out-of-state, there’s no quarantine requirement, but consider self-isolation or reducing contact with others for at least 14 days to avoid unknowingly spreading COVID-19.

Jasmine Hall is an almost 30-year-old native Montanan who lives in Bozeman with her boyfriend and 4-year-old daughter. She has a BA in journalism and media studies, previously worked as a newspaper reporter, and is Recording Supervisor at the Gallatin County Clerk & Recorder’s Office.