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9 Ways To Stay Safe While Using Fireworks

Every year, thousands of people are tragically burned and maimed while setting off fireworks in accidents that often are preventable.

Most of the injuries happen on or near the July Fourth holiday — easily the most active time of the year for fireworks use.

Accidents often are the result of a tragic error in judgment or a lack of supervision, carrying consequences that will follow some victims for the rest of their lives.

It doesn’t have to be that way. With a few common-sense precautions, you can celebrate our nation’s independence and stay safe while doing so.

Fireworks Injuries Increasing

Two years ago, fireworks caused an estimated15,600 injuries. And there were 18 deaths, up from 12 in 2019. Most of those injuries — 66% — occurred between June 21 through July 21.

Hands and fingers were the most frequently injured part of the body, followed by the head, face and ears; eyes; legs; and arms, according to U.S. government data. Burns accounted for about 44% of the injuries, which is not surprising considering a simple sparkler can reach temperatures of 1,200 degrees or more. People between the ages of 25 and 44 had the most injuries, and 71% of the victims were male.

The increase in injuries for 2020 probably had something to do with the pandemic. Many people had been isolated since the spring and were ready to get out and have some fun. But many government-sponsored, professionally run shows were canceled or people weren’t ready for settings with big crowds. As a result, many people bought their own fireworks and put on their own shows.

Common Misjudgments, Mistakes

Fireworks come in many sizes, shapes and functions, from flying bottle rockets to Roman candles to firecrackers.

Handled properly, fireworks generally are safe. Handled improperly, they can lead to devastating injuries, including the loss of eyes, fingers and even hands. Some hand injuries require multiple surgeries and reconstruction just to regain some level of function.

Some of the common mistakes people make when they’re using fireworks include:

  • Trying to relight a pyrotechnic device that didn’t work. 
  • Standing too near a firework after it’s been lit.
  • Attempting to modify fireworks by extracting the explosive powder.
  • Allowing children to use fireworks.
  • Drinking alcohol and then using fireworks.
  • Bending over a firework while lighting it.
  • Trying to straighten a firework that fell over after being lit.
  • Attempting to use fireworks intended for professionals.

How To Stay Safe

You can enjoy fireworks at home if you think about prevention and follow these nine simple, common-sense rules.

  • Don’t let young children handle fireworks. For older kids, always make sure there is close adult supervision.
  • If you’re going to drink alcohol during a celebration, designate someone who isn’t drinking to light the fireworks. Think of it like a designated driver, except in this case it’s a designated lighter.
  • Never hold fireworks in your hand while lighting them.
  • Never attempt to relight a dud. Instead, douse it with water and leave it alone.
  • Keep a hose and a fire extinguisher nearby in case the pyrotechnics start a fire.
  • Never stand over a firework to light it. Light it from the side and then get away quickly.
  • If an upright firework tips over before igniting, do not try to reposition it. Just get away. 
  • Never attempt to modify fireworks or use them in some way that’s not intended.
  • Never point fireworks at someone.

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