Fireworks displays tend to invoke patriotic feelings. They are a fitting way to celebrate the birth of a country whose anthem speaks of “the rockets red glare” and bombs lighting up the night sky. But fireworks can sometimes light up more than the amateur or even professional pyrotechnician intended. Fireworks can be dangerous.
The United States, of course, isn’t the only place in the world where fireworks are popular. The Chinese and other Asian countries have enjoyed fireworks for centuries. The U.K. has Guy Fawkes Night celebrations; Canada loves fireworks on Victoria Day; Ireland prefers Halloween for their pyrotechnic displays; Walt Disney’s theme parks light up the sky every night of the year; and fireworks shows take place at every region on the globe when the New Year is rung in.
But all of this hoopla doesn’t occur without cost. And I’m not talking about the considerable financial outlay required for those 200 million pounds of explosives. Every year, in the USA alone, about 9000 visits to hospital emergency rooms are due to fireworks injuries—and a whopping 40% of those injuries are to children under 15 years old.
5 Tips for fireworks safety
Here are some recommendations that can help keep you and your family away from danger:
The safest way to view fireworks is at a licensed, trustworthy public gathering. Macy’s and Atlantic City are the biggest displays east of the Mississippi. Travel west and the most spectacular shows are the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration in Idaho Falls and Seattle’s Family 4th Celebration. If you aren’t near a granddaddy display, there is sure to be a safe, family-oriented fireworks show within a reasonable drive of your home. Make it an event to remember. Spend the day, have a picnic and attend special events associated with the fireworks show.
If you do use self-launched fireworks or attend neighborhood amateur shows, use extreme caution. Never approach a firework that was lit, but appears to be a “dud.” And never underestimate the danger. Those harmless-looking sparklers can reach white-hot temperatures. They injure thousands of children every year.
Light fireworks one at a time and keep a water source handy in case of fire. Don’t allow children to light fireworks.
Never set fireworks off inside a building, and maintain plenty of clearance when watching a fireworks display outside. Stay back twice as far as you think you should.
Most fireworks injuries are burns, and the most common location of injury is the hands. It is best not to hold fireworks while you light them—even sparklers can be stuck into the ground instead of held—and never, ever let children play with fireworks.
Nothing can ruin a party faster than a medical emergency. Don’t let the pretty colors fool you—fireworks can cause serious problems. Even those legal to buy and use in the backyard have the potential to maim someone for life. Be safe, be happy and be wise. Don’t allow your celebration to turn into tragedy.