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 a tradition, as well. Here are a few preventive measures to follow to help make your holiday safe and fun.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says about 10,500 people were taken to emergency rooms with fireworks-related injuries in 2014 and 18,500 fireworks-related fires were reported the year before. The NFPA urges people not to use consumer fireworks and says the safest option for you and your family is to attend a fireworks show put on by professionals.
Know the Laws
Before you 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 Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the states of Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey have banned all consumer fireworks. Most other states allow some types of fireworks, but be sure to check your state’s website for information on the local laws.
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 (ATF). How can you tell if specific fireworks products are illegal? The ATF warns that devices sold out of someone’s car or home, without a receipt or commercial packaging, are often not legal fireworks, so you should avoid them. The CPSC 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 states that people should avoid buying homemade fireworks or trying to make them at home, which are very dangerous.
Safety Tips to Follow
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 of the following safety precautions from the CPSC in mind:
- Keep them outside. Never light fireworks inside, and always keep them far away from dry grass, plants, houses, buildings, vehicles and other flammable objects.
- Follow directions and warnings on the package. The CPSC 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.
- Don’t let the kids light the fireworks. Young children should never, under any circumstances, be allowed to handle fireworks — even sparklers. The CPSC 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 or anything they may ignite.
- Watch your wardrobe. Make sure you are not wearing any loose clothing, which could easily catch fire.
- Get back. When you’re lighting the fireworks (always one at a time), 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. 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, suggests the Humane Society of the United States. 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!
Originally published June 13, 2011.