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5 Ways to Stay Fireworks Safe This July 4


We are once more on the doorstep of July 4, and local fireworks merchants are doing brisk business as people stock up for their Independence Day celebration.

The best advice when it comes to fireworks is simple: Don’t. Just don’t use them. Look for a local public fireworks display and make plans to attend. Pack a cooler, get the kids and some folding chairs, and make an evening of it. Professional fireworks shows are strictly regulated affairs overseen by certified experts, and even then things can go wrong.

That said, realistically, a large number of people are still going to purchase fireworks for home use — and a percentage of those individuals are going to find themselves in the nation’s emergency departments. More than half will need treatment for burns; others will need emergency care for lacerations, contusions and other injuries.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) follows national trends in fireworks-related injuries. More than two-thirds of those injuries occur to the hands or fingers; eye injuries and injuries to the head, face or ear follow in equal measure. Torso injuries, leg injuries and arm injuries follow.

Properties also don’t fare well from fireworks: the NFPA found that fireworks were responsible for more than 15,600 fires in 2013 — the most recent year for which data is available — including structure fires, vehicle fires, brush and grass fires and others. Along with property damage, many of those fires also resulted in injuries requiring emergency medical care.

If you’re going to use fireworks this season, please heed some advice to use them as safely as possible.

1. Stay sober.

These are rocket-propelled explosives and incendiary devices — if you’re going to use them, it’s best to have your wits about you. Refrain from using alcohol or any other recreational drugs. Alcohol — and any other drugs — and fireworks don’t mix.

2. These aren’t for kids.

While it goes without saying that many types of fireworks — like roman candles and bottle rockets — shouldn’t be handled by children, the largest percentage of fireworks injuries are actually caused by sparklers. If you’re going to use fireworks at home, make sure you’re keeping children at a safe distance and setting a good example.

3. Clear the launch pad.

Don’t use fireworks close to tall grass, trees, homes or other structures, vehicles and anything else that could be damaged should something go awry. Remember, some of these fireworks are designed for range and can travel a long way straight up; they can also travel a long way across the ground should they fall over before takeoff.

Your hand is not a safe place from which to launch fireworks. Neither is a glass bottle. Use a heavy, flame-resistant receptacle for launching fireworks.

Also, keep a bucket of water or charged water hose nearby to help extinguish any inadvertent fires.

4. Transport and store fireworks safely.

Don’t carry fireworks in your pocket. Don’t leave fireworks in your car. If you have any left at the end of the celebration, don’t store them near an open flame or in the vicinity of places where people smoke.

5. Protect yourself.

Wear safety glasses, flame-resistant gloves (like heavy leather work gloves) and clothes that aren’t particularly flammable (no polyester). Again, these are explosives. Even if they are intended for a civilian market, these are capable of inflicting a lot of damage; the right clothing can save you from losing a finger or an eye.

Learn more about emergency care at Tanner Health System and the Tanner ReadER program, which provides age-appropriate books to every child who visits one of Tanner’s three regional, 24-hour emergency departments.