June 25, 2020

For a happy 4th of July, be careful with fireworks

Professional fireworks display bursting in the sky. Learn safety facts to be careful with fireworks.

Most everyone loves fireworks, especially for Independence Day. We look forward to our towns’ annual fireworks displays every July. But what to do during the COVID-19 pandemic, when most towns have cancelled their displays? You may be thinking, what’s the big deal about shooting off a few bottle rockets or lighting some firecrackers? Read on to learn the facts and how you can be safe this year, and every year, by being careful with fireworks.

Perhaps you know a couple of people who provide the unofficial fireworks display for your neighborhood every July 4. This year, with all the cancelled official displays, it may be even more tempting than usual for people to put on their own shows. This is a dangerous move.

Here’s why: You may have read or heard a few stories about serious injuries or property damage caused by amateurs using fireworks. It turns out those stories are not one-offs, or anomalies. Case after case shows that it takes only a split second to get a severe burn, a debilitating injury, or worse, from fireworks. Seasonal fire and burn statistics bear this out, year after year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Fire Protection Association.

The numbers are scary

Just how dangerous are fireworks? Every year, thousands of people are seriously injured. This includes both the people who are handling them as well as spectators. In its 2018 Fireworks Annual Report, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded more than 9,000 people needing emergency treatment in the hospital for fireworks-related injuries. Injuries to the extremities accounted for one-half, with another one-third affecting the eye or head. More than one-third of those injured were under the age of 15 years.

Fireworks also cause thousands of fires and other property damage each year. In 2018, fireworks started approximately 19,500 fires (including structures, vehicles and other fires), according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Are they legal?

Most states allow the use of at least some types of consumer fireworks. Illinois is one of the most restrictive states. All fireworks are illegal except sparklers and a few novelty items. And individual towns and cities within Illinois have the option to put in place even stronger restrictions. For example, all types of fireworks, including sparklers, are banned in Chicago. Check your local government’s website to find out your town’s restrictions.

Just as with the “real” (professional grade) fireworks, consumer-grade fireworks should be handled with extreme care. Closely supervise children if you choose to let them use sparklers or other small novelty items such as snappers (thrown on the ground for a “pop”).

Sparklers are not safe for children (or anyone). They can remain hot enough to seriously burn you long after having gone out, so be careful to wait a long time before picking them up, or better yet, immediately submerge them under water (keep a bucket of water close by, for safe dousing). Keep very small children away altogether. Also, like any high-temperature material, a sparkler can, and will, start a fire. Learn many more safety tips on how to be careful with fireworks from the CPSC.

This July 4 may be a bit of a disappointment as far as fantastic fireworks displays go. But fear not, there’s always next year, and many towns are promising their shows will be better than ever. In the meantime, please be careful with fireworks. Stay safe and protect your loved ones so you can enjoy your holiday.

by Kris A. Mainellis and Jack Mainellis