Everyone knows a story. They had a friend, who had a friend, who, when he was a kid, blew part of his hand off. Or his foot. Or set something on fire. There’s always a story told around the 4th of July, and it’s always a tale of fireworks gone wrong.
But fireworks, if used properly, can be safe. You don’t have to be that friend of a friend people tell horror stories about. You just have to follow some simple precautions, both when you use fireworks and when you go to firework displays.
Go To A Show
The best precaution you can take, when using fireworks, is not to do it at all. Instead, go to a public show. While you’re there, make sure you take all the normal safety precautions (lock your car, watch your belongings, don’t leave your things in the care of strangers while you go to the bathroom, watch for pickpockets and theft). But also make sure you never pick up or touch fallen pieces of fireworks. They could be hot or still explosive, and cause a burn — or worse. While you’re at it, make sure this is a reputable fireworks display, not Jethro’s roman candle backyard extravaganza.
Check The Laws
If you have to use your own fireworks, make sure they’re legal. You know if you have to drive across state lines to buy fireworks — we don’t need to tell you that. Remember also that M-class fireworks, like M-80s, M100s, blockbusters, or quarterpounders were banned back in 1966, as noted by KidsHealth, and are all manufactured illegally — and if they’re illegal, they made not be made with the utmost care. Never use any of these fireworks/explosives under any circumstances.
Leave Fireworks To The Adults
Don’t give fireworks to kids. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2017, 12,900 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for firework-related injuries; of that number, 36 percent were suffered by children under the age of 15. Kids need to stick to snap-pops. Don’t make the mistake of thinking sparklers are safe for little ones; a survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics from 1990-2003 found that sparklers were the second-most common cause of firework-related injury, at 20.5 percent (the most common culprit was firecrackers, at 29.6 percent). The National Safety Council points out that sparklers can burn hot enough to melt gold; children have received severe burns from dropping them on their feet.
Don’t give fireworks to drunk people, either. Fireworks and alcohol don’t mix, for obvious reasons: drunk people do stupid things, which can include breaking basic safety rules like aiming fireworks at people, setting fireworks off indoors, etc.
Don’t Pick Up ‘Duds’
Fireworks which hey could go off in your hand. Don’t relight them, either. Instead, wait twenty minutes, and then quench them in your bucket. Because …
Have Water On Hand
Keep a bucket of water around. This is where you put the spent fireworks. You don’t put them in the trash. You don’t put them on the grass. You put them in the water. You can’t run the risk of them reigniting and setting their surroundings on fire.
Give Them Space
When people are setting off fireworks, give them a wide berth. Make sure you’re not standing in front of them (or, if you’re the one setting them off, make sure no one’s standing in front of you). Check also that no one’s behind you — the firework could backfire and injure someone. Basically, you need a wide, clear area to set off a firework.
Put It On The Ground
Don’t hold fireworks in your hand when you’re lighting them. This is how Jimmy lost a finger in every friend-of-a-friend story. Unless you’re in the mood for some light reconstructive surgery, set the firework on the ground when you light it.
Use Eye Protection
Everyone setting off fireworks, and those close to people setting off fireworks, should be wearing eye protection. We’re sure you’re rolling your eyes, but consider this: 36 percent of those 2017 fireworks injuries were to the head. A paper in Ophthalmic Epidemiology notes that 4.4 percent of all total eye injuries in Alabama are caused by fireworks, primarily bottle rockets. So wear eye protection.
Think you look like a dork in goggles? You’ll probably like yourself even less in an eyepatch. So if you’re not into wearing eye protection, it might be best if you catch the fireworks from a safer vantage point: like from a picnic blanket, ‘neath the rockets’ red glare.