Fireworks are a symbol of our nation’s independence and we have celebrated the Fourth of July with backyard displays and city-sponsored spectacles for decades. While “everyone does it,” there’s no doubt, though, that fireworks can pose a serious safety hazard.
Every year news outlets follow the holiday with reports of people who had fireworks blow up in their face, or had their house burn down because of fireworks flame. Don’t be one of those victims! Follow these tips to have a safe and fun experience with fireworks.
1. Know the statistics. According to a 2015 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- an estimated 10,500 fireworks injuries were treated in emergency rooms in 2014
- most (67%) of those injuries happen between June 20 and July 20
- of those treated injuries, 74% were to males
- 35% of those injuries were to children under the age of 15
- children age 5 to 9 had the highest rate of injury
- 1,400 injuries were reported from sparklers, 100 from bottle rockets and 1,400 from firecrackers
- 54% of the injuries were burns
2. Obey your local laws. Fireworks are banned or regulated differently in different places. You can avoid legal trouble by respecting the laws of your state or city. If fireworks are not legal where you live, don’t use them.
3. Read the label before igniting. Know what your firework will do before you light the fuse. Some hover close to the ground while others shoot sky high.
4. Always have responsible, sober adult supervision. Never give kids fireworks to use on their own. Don’t let kids wander off with fireworks, even if they have things that seem “harmless” like sparklers. Fires can be cause by lit sparklers touching combustible material.
5. Light only one at a time. If you light several at once and something goes wrong with one, you won’t be able to help if others are going off at the same time. After you light the fuse, move away and keep your distance.
6. Use fireworks outdoors only, in a well-cleared space. The area should be free of obstacles and clear of anything flammable. Fireworks contain toxic chemicals and metals to make the colors, and the smoke they create is hazardous to breathe. You don’t want that in your home.
7. Keep a hose or bucket of water handy at all times. Keep a water source or fire extinguisher nearby at all times in case something goes wrong. Give one responsible person the task of managing the water if necessary.
8. Be mindful of where the fireworks will come down. Some states allow the fireworks that shoot up in the air. If you have that kind, make sure it won’t land on your or your neighbor’s house or outbuildings.
9. Be mindful of wildfire warnings and wind speed. Some cities will limit fireworks usage if the weather is extremely dry or windy. These limitations are in place to ensure everyone’s safety, so heed those warnings.
9. Never try to relight a “dud” or throw it in a fire. If a firework doesn’t light or malfunctions, don’t attempt to relight it. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes, then place it in water and dispose of properly.
10. Don’t modify or experiment with fireworks. Fireworks should only be used as they come in the package and by following proper lighting instructions.
11. Dispose of spent fireworks properly. Allow a spent firework to cool completely before handling, about 20 minutes. Place the used fireworks in a bucket of water to soak. Once it is fully soaked and cold, dispose of in the trash.