How to handle fireworks safely

Posted July 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

The July Fourth holiday won’t be a celebration for the 8,600 or so Americans likely to end up in hospital emergency rooms from injuries by fireworks.

“National Fire Protection Association statistics in 2010 (latest year available) showed 57 percent of those injuries were to the arms and legs and 37 percent were to the head. The injury risk was highest for children ages 5-14, with more than twice the risk as for the general population,” said Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

In addition, the NFPA estimated fireworks caused 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 60 civilian injuries and $36 million in direct property damage in 2010.

‘Consumer fireworks,’ formerly known as Class C fireworks, are legal in Missouri. Legal age of purchase is 14, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. This class includes bottle rockets, sky rockets, Roman candles, cone and cylindrical fountains, firecrackers, certain sparklers and revolving wheels. Bottle rockets are the most dangerous for eye injuries; sparklers are the most dangerous for burns.

“Public displays are safest, but if you are having a home fireworks display, please follow these common-sense safety tips,” said Schultheis.

• Read and follow all manufacturer label directions and warning instructions.

• Always light fireworks outdoors in a clear area on a flat surface at least 25 feet away from onlookers, buildings, vehicles and combustible materials.

• Always supervise older children when they are lighting fireworks. Never allow children under age 10 to play with fireworks, including sparklers. (Sparklers can reach a temperature of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.)

• Light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting the devices. Never put fireworks in breakable containers like tin cans, clay pots or bottles that may shatter, and never hold fireworks in your hands when lighting them.

• Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy for emergencies and to douse any fireworks that do not ignite.

• Do not allow any running or horseplay while fireworks are being used. Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

• Keep unused fireworks away from the area where fireworks are being lit, Always store fireworks in a dry, cool place and avoid rough handling that might damage the fuse or handles.

• Always demonstrate responsible behaviors around fireworks, because children may imitate your actions.