The Importance of Handling Fireworks Properly

Fireworks are part of many American families’ Fourth of July traditions, but knowing how and when to handle them should be one, as well. Here are a few preventive measures to take to help make your holiday memorable and safe.

The National Fire Protection Association says about 8,700 people were taken to emergency rooms with fireworks-related injuries in 2012, and that the year before, 17,800 fireworks-related fires were reported. The NFPA urges people not to use consumer fireworks, and says the safest option is to attend a fireworks show put on by professionals.

Know the Laws

If you do decide to set off fireworks yourself, it’s important to be aware of and follow the laws regarding fireworks in your area. According to, the states of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York have banned all consumer fireworks. Most other states allow some types of fireworks, so check your state’s website for information in laws in your area.

Devices like M-80s, M-100s and cherry bombs can unexpectedly detonate because of heat, friction or shock, and many states and law enforcement agencies have deemed them illegal, according to The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. How can you tell if specific fireworks products are illegal? The ATF warns that often, devices sold out of someone’s car or home, without a receipt or commercial packaging, are not legal fireworks, so you should avoid them. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also warns that fireworks wrapped in brown paper are generally intended for professional use, so they could be too dangerous for you to use at home.

Also, the ATF warns people to avoid buying homemade fireworks, which it says can be very dangerous, or trying to make fireworks at home.

Follow Safety Tips

Once you’ve determined it’s legal for you to use consumer fireworks in your area and you’ve purchased legal fireworks, it’s important to keep some safety precautions in mind.

  • Keep them outside. Never light fireworks inside, and always keep them away from dry grass, plants and other flammable objects, says.
  • Follow directions and warnings on the package. says that if the fireworks’ packaging doesn’t show the contents, warnings and directions, you shouldn’t use them.
  • Watch your kids. Keep an eye on children around fireworks, to help keep them safe, says.
  • Don’t let the kids light the fireworks. Young children should never, under any circumstances, be allowed to handle fireworks  even sparklers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that sparklers can burn up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Take fire precautions. Keep water and a fire extinguisher nearby, in case you need to douse the fireworks.
  • Watch your wardrobe. Make sure you are not wearing any loose clothing, which could easily catch fire, warns.
  • Get back. When you’re lighting the fireworks (always one at a time), the CPSC says you should make sure no part of your body is directly above the device. As soon as it is lit, move a safe distance away.
  • Douse the duds. If one of your fireworks doesn’t seem to be working properly, don’t try to light it again and do not pick it up. The CPSC says you should soak it in water and then throw it away.
  • Never point fireworks at people. Make sure your fireworks are not aimed at any people, animals or property.
  • Protect the pets. Provide a safe place for your pets to stay during the festivities, the Humane Society of the United States suggests. Consider turning on a TV or radio to help drown out the pops and bangs from fireworks nearby.

Remember: It’s safer to leave fireworks displays to the professionals. But, if you do decide to use fireworks at home, follow the law and take safety measures. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!