As Independence Day approaches, many of us start planning a small fireworks show at our homes or family gatherings. Obviously, when using pyrotechnics, safety should be our primary concern. Fireworks are beautiful and deadly at the same time, and the keys to having a safe holiday are common sense and some simple precautions. If you follow these basic rules of safety, your July fourth gathering should be injury-free and enjoyable for all.
Safety Tips for Fireworks
Always Obey Local Laws
The laws about buying, selling and using fireworks vary from state to state, county to county and city to city. Make certain that you know what your local laws are on fireworks use and possession. Keeping your local laws in mind and adhering to them will save you an unnecessary and unwanted citation or arrest, depending on the rules in your community.
Read the Label
If you have purchased fireworks, and are planning on setting them off, carefully read the cautionary warning labels. A few minutes of reading could save you from experiencing a trip to the hospital. Make sure to follow the directions contained in any warnings. If your fireworks do not have warning labels, do not use them.
Never let children under the age of 18 play with, handle or light fireworks. Kids cannot appreciate the danger of fireworks and are injured and burned at this time of year in high numbers. These injuries can be prevented if kids don’t have access to fireworks, and if the show is supervised by adults. Also, adults should never handle or light fireworks when they are consuming alcohol. Intoxicated people are capable of making bad decisions and taking risks that could be dangerous.
Discard Used or “Dud” Fireworks
Always douse used or dud fireworks with water as soon as possible, as they may still be smoldering and could explode, causing injury to people and damage to property. Never pick up duds or spent casings with your hands until they are completely watered down.
Never Stand Above Fireworks
When igniting or setting up your fireworks, take care not to stand or lean over the top of your fireworks. If you are setting up mortars be especially aware of standing over them while preparing for firing. Standing over top of the fireworks is the same as pointing them directly at your chest. Light them at arm’s length and immediately retreat to a safe distance, 20 to 25 feet away for most category two and category three type fireworks.
Some Interesting Facts about the History of Fireworks
The chemists were actually trying to concoct a potion for immortality. The discovery, or invention, of fireworks and explosives spawned the invention of pyrotechnic weapons. The first documented use of fireworks in warfare is reportedly back in 1046 AD when the Chinese used a crude gunpowder catapult and attached bamboo sparklers to arrows. The arrows were then shot en masse over their enemies to create an effect of fire raining down.
Although the Chinese are credited with inventing gunpowder, and later fireworks, it was actually the Italians that created the aerial shell that we use today to create the colorful displays we love. The Italians developed rockets with fireworks contained in aerial shells in the 1830s. They also discovered that using different metallic powders mixed in with the gunpowder would create different vibrant colors when detonated high in the sky. Also, they added various organic salts to the fireworks shells to create sound effects like whistling and hissing. Titanium powder is responsible for creating the loud blasts we are familiar with today.
Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July
Independence Day is one of the most fun holidays of the year for Americans. It’s summer, there’s food, family and of course, alcohol. It’s a day for revelry and gathering with loved ones and friends. But too often, the alcohol can lead to problems.
A drunken individual should never be expected to think clearly and capable of safely handling fireworks. After a day of drinking, reaction times and coordination will be impaired, and that is not a safe condition to be in and lighting explosives around your family, or anyone for that matter. Save yourself a possible disaster, and leave the fireworks to a sober adult.
It’s also a great idea to have a first aid kit available in case an accidental burn or injury occurs. Always make sure you keep your children in sight at all times, so they don’t wander too close to an area that is dangerous. Keep the spectators a safe distance away from the fireworks set up, and point the fireworks away from buildings and people. Following these safety tips can help to ensure that you, your friends, and your family will enjoy a fun and safe holiday.
- Smithsonian Mag: Fun Facts About Fireworks
- Fireworks Safety: Safety Tips You Need to Know
- National Health Service UK: Why Fireworks are Dangerous
- Fireworks Alliance: Fireworks Safety Guidelines