Firework safety 101
A fan of fireworks? Enjoy the show while keeping safety first.
For many, enjoying the Fourth of July holiday means celebrating with a firework show at home. Usually, this includes “Class C” consumer-grade fireworks, which contain less than 50 milligrams of explosive material. (Think firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets.)
“With ‘bigger’ fireworks now easily available to Pennsylvanians, this creates new safety concerns,” says Dr. Ronald Strony, a Geisinger emergency medicine physician. "But there are some things everyone can do to avoid getting hurt while celebrating Independence Day.”
Not surprisingly, most fireworks-related injuries happen on or near the Fourth of July. They often involve burns to the head, face, legs, hands or arms.
“It’s common for folks to come into the emergency room during the Fourth of July because of burns or foreign objects in the eyes,” says Dr. Strony. “But these sorts of accidents can be easily avoided with the proper precautions.”
Fireworks safety tips
If you’re hoping to keep the party at home and away from the hospital this year, here are three tips for firework safety:
1. Keep fireworks away from young children
Even sparklers, a fun family favorite, need to be handled with care. The glittering sticks can reach up to 2,000° F, enough to light flammable clothing or cause severe burns. Only children over the age of 10 should handle sparklers — and should be closely supervised when they do.
“When handling any sort of fireworks, parents should keep a bucket of water nearby,” explains Dr. Strony. “Sparklers stay hot even after the stick burns out, so they can burn hands or feet if left on the ground.”
2. Be careful when lighting, and let the duds lie
When lighting fireworks, don’t lean over the fuse or device. Instead, approach from the side — this way you can light one at a time and back away quickly!
Also, never pick up or relight a failed firework. There could be an issue with the device, which may cause it to go off at any minute.
“An unexpected launch could cause burns, and in some cases, an explosion could put extremities and limbs in danger,” says Dr. Strony.
The best way to handle a dud firework is to spray it with a garden hose.
3. Be an educated (and law-abiding) fireworks aficionado
Pennsylvania has allotted a finite number of permits for approved fireworks sellers. You should avoid any seller who can’t produce this permit or who’s selling products you don’t recognize.
Fireworks in brown paper and without attractive, graphic packaging are often meant for commercial use and are not legal for consumers. They also pack a considerable punch — so leave those to the professionals.
When it comes to operating fireworks at home, Pennsylvania law states that fireworks must be discharged more than 150 feet from any occupied structure, and not by any person under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
Keeping these tips in mind, you can enjoy a safe night at home with your family enjoying your own personal firework display.
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