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How to Stay Safe While Using Fireworks This Fourth of July

Co-authored by Cassidy Carroll of The Collins Law Firm, P.C.

Summer is in full force with Fourth of July this weekend and we are all excited to celebrate our Independence Day with parades, barbeques, and family gatherings. However, there is one thing that defines the Fourth of July in everyone’s mind—fireworks. While we all enjoy the vibrant colors, the inspiring displays, and the way they light up the night sky, fireworks—if used carelessly—can turn a fun experience into a tragic event.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that fireworks killed 11 people and injured 10,500 people in the last year alone.1 In the weeks leading up to and following the Fourth of July, an average of 230 people go to the emergency room every day for firework-related injuries.2

To some, these statistics might conjure up images of YouTube videos featuring irresponsible teenagers carelessly lighting up fireworks. However, last year, children under the age of 15 years old experienced the highest injury rate, accounting for 35% of all firework-related injuries.3

Last year, for example, sparklers were the third highest cause of firework-related injuries (19%), surpassed only by firecrackers (20%) and unspecified fireworks (31%).4 In fact, bottle rockets and roman candles only caused 2% and 4% of fire-work related injuries, respectively.4 These statistics serve as a reminder that all fireworks—even sparklers—must be used with proper safety precautions and supervision.

For those of you who will use fireworks for your Fourth of July celebration, please consider the following precautions2,3:

  • Observe State and Local Laws. While other states have varying laws depending on the time of year, it is illegal to use fireworks in Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, with the exception of public displays.1 Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and Vermont only allow the use of sparklers unless it’s a public display.1
  • Do Not Allow Young Children to Play With Fireworks. Sparklers are often considered to be the ideal “safe” firework for young children. However, sparklers burn at 2,000º—hot enough to melt some metals. Children may not understand the danger involved with fireworks and may not act appropriately while using the devices or react properly in an emergency.
  • Always Have Adult Supervision of Firework Activities. While older children can be permitted to use fireworks, they should always be supervised by an adult.
  • Store Fireworks in A Cool, Dry Place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
  • Do Not Buy Fireworks that Are Packaged in Brown Paper. This is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays.
  • Keep a Bucket of Water Nearby. For emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that fail to ignite or explode.
  • Set Off Fireworks Outdoors in A Clear Area. Make sure you are away from houses, dry leaves, or and other flammable materials.
  • Keep Unused Fireworks Away from Firework-Lighting Areas. Active fireworks release sparks and these sparks can set off unused fireworks too close to active fireworks.
  • Be Sure Other People Are Out of Range Before Lighting Fireworks. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of fireworks and be unaware of your surroundings.
  • Always Follow the Directions on The Fireworks Package. Never modify fireworks or experiment with homemade designs.
  • Never Place Any Part of Your Body Directly Over a Fireworks Device When Lighting the Fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Light Fireworks One At A Time. Lighting multiple fireworks at one time can result in less supervision and more injuries.
  • Never Light Fireworks in A Container. Especially a glass or metal container.
  • Do Not Try to Relight or Handle Malfunctioning Fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Douse Used Fireworks With Water Before Discarding Them. Dousing fireworks after they have smoldered helps prevent trash fires.

So this Fourth of July, remember to follow these safety precautions when using fireworks so we can all enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

1 CNBC – “Why laws don’t matter with fireworks injuries” (July 1, 2015)

2 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission – “Fireworks Information Center: Fireworks Injuries” (July 2, 2015)

3 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission – “Fireworks Publication #12” (June 2015)

4 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission – “Fireworks Infographic 2015” (June 2015)

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