Happy 4th of July — Have fun, but be safe!
Celebrating the nation’s birthday with fireworks turns everyone’s backyard barbecue, beach bash and pool party into a star-spangled spectacle. Missiles, rockets, Roman candles, spinners, smoke bombs and sparklers are exciting to see and hear.
Today, an endless supply of pyrotechnic devices is on the market – all legal for sale. But just because they are legal doesn’t mean they are safe or smart.
“If not handled properly, fireworks can cause burns and eye injuries in kids and adults,” according to KidsHealth. “The best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home – period. Attend public fireworks displays, and leave the lighting to the professionals.”
Many Americans will not follow that advice and instead will stock up on packaged products from retail stores and roadside stands. Dads and moms know their boys and girls want to see fireworks that not only shoot into the sky but also twirl in the driveway and fill the air with thick haze. For families who took the traditional route, here are safety tips.
In Florida, although fireworks are sold, they are regulated by Chapter 791, Florida Statutes (2018) and are prohibited for use with out a license. This statute prohibits the use of fireworks except “sparklers”:
“means a device which emits showers of sparks upon burning, does not contain any explosive compounds, does not detonate or explode, is handheld or ground based, cannot propel itself through the air, and contains not more than 100 grams of the chemical compound which produces sparks upon burning. Any sparkler that is not approved by the division is classified as fireworks.”
If you live in an equestrian area in Florida, remember that animals, including dogs, horses, cattle and goats are sensitive to the sounds of fireworks. Horses in their stalls can panic and cause serious injury to themselves. Dogs, cattle and other animals can be terrified by the sounds generated by fireworks.
Make sure all fireworks purchased are legally manufactured; fireworks have the name of the manufacturer on the label, proper directions and a warning statement. If fireworks are wrapped in brown paper, that is a sign they are professional-grade and pose an even greater danger.
- Homemade fireworks never should be attempted.
- Have a bucket of water and a rag or a sponge nearby in case of an accident.
- Do not let children play with fireworks unsupervised.
“Things like firecrackers, rockets, and sparklers are just too dangerous.” according to KidsHealth. “If you give kids sparklers, make sure they keep them outside and away from the face, clothing, and hair. Sparklers can reach 1,800°F (982°C) – hot enough to melt gold.”
Phantom Fireworks’ Arrowhead Missiles six-pack promises blue, green, red and yellow projectiles that launch up to 125 feet in a flurry of crackling glitter. The company’s Big Burst Ballistics set is a five-pack of rockets with a double-detonation effect and reaches heights of 200 feet. Crazy Aces is a four-pack of club-, diamond-, heart- and spade-themed Roman candles that stand upright and spew flames. Jumping Jacks is a bunch of tri-color ground spinners that go wild in all directions. Mammoth Smoke is a three-pack of bombs said to last for two minutes apiece. Sparklers come in all shapes and sizes. The marketing is over the top and can tempt revelers of any age, so here are more safety tips.
- When lighting fireworks with others, keep a safe distance apart if a backfire occurs or a misfire.
- Fireworks should not be held when lit, as they could explode prematurely or suddenly.
- Children should never be permitted to use fireworks.
“Don’t hold fireworks in your hand or have any part of your body over them while lighting,” according to KidsHealth. “Wear eye protection, and don’t carry fireworks in your pocket – the friction could set them off.”
Pointing fireworks at someone – even if it is a joke – can have serious consequences.
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 18,500 fires annually, 1,300 of which involve homes, and 300 of which involve vehicles, occur because of fireworks. Those fires cause an average of three deaths, 40 injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.
“Each July 4th, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks,” the association reports. “Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks – devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.”
The most-injured areas of the body during fireworks use are the hands (33 percent), the face (28 percent), the legs (18 percent), the eyes (9 percent) and the arms (8 percent), according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“Fireworks are synonymous with our celebration of Independence Day,” the commission states on its Web site. “Yet, the thrill of fireworks can also bring pain. On average, 250 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday.”
Some final safety tips include:
- Light one, not multiple, fireworks at a time.
- Leave duds on the ground and wait until they are cool before touching them.
- Soak spent fireworks overnight and dispose of them the next morning.
- Do not forget about the safety of pets.
“Don’t bring your pets to a fireworks display, even a small one,” advises the National Council on Fireworks Safety. “If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to the sound. Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.”