Safety tips when using fireworks

July is recognized as National Fireworks Safety Month. Fireworks are exciting and festive, but bring a degree of danger to the viewers and operators. In 2012, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for firework related injuries; 55% of 2012 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 31% were to the head.

If fireworks are legal where you live, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Kids should never play with fireworks. Things like firecrackers, rockets, and sparklers are just too dangerous. 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.
  • Buy only legal fireworks (legal fireworks have a label with the manufacturer's name and directions; illegal ones are unlabeled), and store them in a cool, dry place. Illegal fireworks usually go by the names M-80, M-100, blockbuster, or quarter pounder. These explosives were banned in 1966, but still account for many fireworks injuries.
  • Never try to make your own fireworks.
  • Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of accidents.
  • Steer clear of others — fireworks have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction. Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even in jest.
  • Don't hold fireworks in your hand or have any part of your body over them while lighting. Wear some sort of eye protection, and avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket — the friction could set them off.
  • Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from brush and leaves and flammable substances. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to more 50,000 fires caused by fireworks each year.
  • Light one firework at a time (not in glass or metal containers), and never relight a dud.
  • Don't allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
  • Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash can.
  • Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they'll run loose or get injured.

It is important for those using fireworks to be aware of these safety precautions, especially if there are children nearby. During the month of July, children 14 years or less account for about 45% of injuries in relation to fireworks. For adults, it is crucial to remember that alcohol and fireworks do not mix. The operator of the fireworks should not be drinking alcohol in order to prevent an accident from occurring.

Information was obtained from these sites:

Information provided by Dana Breeding, RN, Health Educator at Augusta Health, (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.