By Adrian Sparrow
The weather is warm, people flock outside for outdoor activities, and fireworks are on display on balmy summer nights. Setting up your own fireworks display can be an exciting family activity or the perfect way to end a party. Still, nobody wants their day to end in disaster from a firework mishap- which could be deadly.
Around 10,000 people visited the ER in 2019 for firework-related injuries, and most of these occurred between June and July. Burns account for more than half of firework-related injuries, with other injuries including eye trauma, blindness, fractures, hearing loss, and even losing a finger.
Before you begin your display, be aware of friends, neighbors, and veterans with photosensitive epilepsy, PTSD, or other neurological conditions that might require a smaller show. The intense, dazzling lights and thunderous booms from a firework display can trigger a seizure or flashback.
Working with fireworks means taking stringent safety precautions to avoid injury. Consumer fireworks are smaller than professional-grade mortar shells but still very dangerous. After lighting the fuse, you should immediately back away to safety- 35 feet away for ground-based fireworks and 150 feet for aerial displays. Firework fuses are between 3 and 9” long, which isn’t much time.
Keep spectators at least this far away at all times.
Never carry fireworks in your pocket, as the friction could cause them to ignite. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
Fireworks are best enjoyed on a clear night, but be wary of gusty winds. A strong wind can blow sparks away to catch on grass, trees, houses, or other buildings that can catch on fire. The firework might also tip over and launch toward people. If it’s too windy out, postpone your fireworks display. You can still have a show if it’s slightly windy; point the firework upwind and make sure there’s nothing flammable downwind.
Plan for a fire, and keep water and a fire extinguisher on hand.
Don’t throw used fireworks directly in the trash. After spent fireworks are finished burning, douse them with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before putting them in the trash; this prevents the firework from catching other trash on fire.
Children and Sparklers
Sparklers are a staple of any summertime celebration. Still, these magical wands burn anywhere between 1800 and 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt metal! Almost 1 in 3 firework-related injuries during the summer months are attributed to sparklers, many of which happen to children. Consider giving small children glow sticks, party poppers, or streamers for the festivities.
If you choose to break out the sparklers, keep some extra safety rules. Only light one sparkler at a time, and keep them away from other fireworks. Hold sparklers with the arm extended away from the body; pointed away from other people, plants, and structures. When finished with sparklers, douse them with water before going in the trash.
You light the firework, the fuse sparks, you dart away to safety… and there’s no boom.
Sometimes fireworks might not ignite or explode as expected. The most important thing to do is wait. Don’t approach or relight a dud, which could still explode. Wait 5-10 minutes to give time for an unexpected explosion, then put the dud in a bucket of water. After soaking the dud in water (which disarms it), you can safely throw the faulty firework away.
Not every state allows personal fireworks displays or even allow consumer firework sales. Make sure fireworks are legal in your neighborhood before putting on a show.
Whether your state allows fireworks or not, don’t use any illegal fireworks. Consumer fireworks go through rigorous safety checks before they can be placed on a store shelf. Illegal fireworks are often too large for safe ignition. Only buy fireworks from licensed dealers.
First Aid for Fireworks
Be prepared ahead of time in case of injury. If somebody is burned by a firework, practice first aid as necessary.
- Rinse the burn with cool water for at least 20 minutes. If burned through clothing and the cloth sticks, don’t peel it away. Instead, rinse through the clothes before seeing if they peel away easily.
- Cover the burn with a clean, dry, sterile dressing.
- Monitor the wound for signs of infection (swelling, drainage, the burn changes color)
If the wound is severe or shows signs of infection, seek immediate medical attention.
When in doubt, many parks and stadiums hold professional fireworks displays. You and your kids can easily avoid burns and simply enjoy the show.