Firework Safety on Independence Day

by Arlene Isenburg

Fireworks are a staple of July 4th. The safest way to enjoy them is by going to a professional fireworks display in your neighborhood instead of lighting them at home. But if you decide to light your own and they are legal in your area, here are some tips to do it safely:

Firework Safety Tips

Never let children handle fireworks, and that includes pieces of already-ignited fireworks which can explode again at any time. Fireworks can cause eye injuries, hand/finger injuries, and burns to both adults and kids. This may surprise you, but sparklers and firecrackers are just as dangerous. If you’ve ever been to a parade, you’ve probably seen kids holding sparklers. Well, their parents may not realize that those sparklers can get as hot as 1,800°F--hot enough to cause third-degree burns. And sparklers are responsible for more than 1/4 of all fireworks-related emergency room visits, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you let your child handle a sparkler, only do it outside and instruct them to keep it an arm’s length away, as it can burn their faces, hair, clothing, and even shoes.

Only buy legal fireworks. You can tell the difference by the label, so always read them. Legal fireworks have a label with a manufacturer and directions. Illegal fireworks have no label and go by names like Blockbuster and Quarterpounder. M-class fireworks, sometimes called M-80s or M-100s are especially dangerous, so avoid them. Store your fireworks in a cool, dry place. Never buy fireworks wrapped in brown paper, as this often means they were meant for professional fireworks displays and could be especially dangerous to laymen. Don’t attempt to make your own.

This may go without saying, but only light fireworks outside. Be sure to keep a hose nearby just in case. Fireworks are extremely flammable, so don’t light them in wooded areas, near brush or even near/pointed at homes. It is estimated that fireworks cause more than 50,000 fires a year. After you’ve set them off, soak the firework remnants in water for a couple of hours before disposing of them to prevent fires.

When setting them off, wear safety glasses. Bottle rockets in particular are known for shooting into people’s eyes, so protect yourself. Light one at a time--and never inside a container. Don’t carry them in your pocket, as the friction could cause them to ignite.

Never light them in your hand or stand over fireworks while lighting. Place them on the ground in an open area a safe distance away from people, cars, and buildings, and move back immediately after lighting. The bigger the firework, the bigger the space needed. And stay away from anyone else lighting fireworks. Never pick up or re-light a ‘dud’ firework that didn’t go off; it’s possible the fuse may be slow and could go off when you least expect it. Wait 20 minutes and soak a dud before attempting to handle it or dispose of it.

We urge you to think long and hard before you decide to light fireworks. Be respectful of your neighbors. And make sure your pets are inside. They could get hurt, and the noise could make them run off, especially since animals are already going to be on edge from all the noise of the holiday. Additionally, fireworks are often a trigger for veterans with PTSD, as the noise resembles the sounds of war. So just keep these in mind before setting them off in your neighborhood. Have a great Fourth of July!

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