Around this time of year, roadside fireworks stands line highways as people start planning their Fourth of July celebrations. Many celebrate the holiday by providing their own “rockets’ red glare” to the night’s sky. It’s one of the staples of America’s Independence Day—picnics, friends, family and fireworks.
Unfortunately, while fireworks can produce a nice visual, they can also be safety hazards. According to the National Council on Firework Safety, an estimated 9,800 people were injured in firework-related accidents in 2007. While injury reports have been in a decline in recent years—according to the Texas Firework Safety website—there are still far too many injuries and accidents caused by fireworks. In addition to the physical injuries, more than $36 million in property damage is reported each year. Many of these firework accidents could have been prevented.
Misuse of fireworks and the lack of common sense are the most common causes of firework injuries and accidents. There are a number of precautions people need to consider when using fireworks. Aside from label warnings that are included on every package, there are many online resources available to provide helpful tips and safety practices.
Here are some of the most common safety practices that will help ensure a safe and happy Fourth of July celebration:
• Most municipalities ban discharge of fireworks within city limits. Avoid an unplanned discussion with law enforcement by checking on the restrictions in your area.
• Only buy fireworks from licensed retail outlets.
• Never experiment with homemade or altered fireworks.
• Carefully read and follow all of the directions on the package.
• Only use fireworks outdoors, away from buildings and dry grass, and on a flat surface.
• Keep a water source—a bucket of water, wet towels or a water hose—or fire extinguisher nearby.
• Light one firework at a time, and then move away quickly.
• Never shoot fireworks from a glass or metal container.
• Never point roman candles, bottle rockets or other shooting fireworks at people or animals.
• Do not hold lit fireworks.
• Never position any body part over lit fireworks.
• Never point or throw fireworks at animals or people.
• Always have emergency contact information available and an emergency plan in place.
• Do not try to reignite malfunctioned fireworks.
• Wear protective clothing, such as gloves and goggles.
• Keep spectators and pets a safe distance away.
• Don’t overestimate a child’s ability to handle fireworks. Always make sure there is adult supervision.
In Texas, high temperatures and an often dry summer create another concern for firework users. According to the City of Round Rock, fire departments in the United States respond to more fires on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. Because of the Texas heat, it’s important to know if there is a fire danger in the area before making plans for a fireworks spectacle for friends and family.
There are plenty of resources to know what condition county and city grounds are in or if there is a burn ban in the area. Watch the local news, visit the local city website, or call the local police department or city office for information.
The most important tip for safety is to use common sense when using fireworks. If families still want to enjoy a fireworks show, but don’t want to put one on themselves, many communities host events that provide large-scale fireworks shows in a controlled environment.
The best thing to do is either follow proper safety procedures and closely monitor children, or leave the fireworks to the professionals.
Steve Bills is Senior Manager of Loss Prevention for Texas Mutual Insurance Company. Austin-based Texas Mutual Insurance Company is the leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance in Texas.