Firework safety: How to prevent injuries and potential fire hazards
By Michael Kuhne, AccuWeather staff writer
Every year, Independence Day celebrations across the country include the fiery, colorful displays and explosive pops of consumer-grade fireworks.
Though consumer fireworks are as common as cookouts during America's birthday, their use still results in numerous fires and bodily injuries every year.
"Consumer fireworks are safer than they have ever been, but consumers need to have a designated shooter that has read the label and caution statement of each firework and stay sober until the fireworks are over," National Council on Fireworks Safety spokesperson Ralph Apel said.
The National Council on Fireworks Safety is a charitable organization with a mission to educate the public on the safe and responsible use of consumer fireworks.
In the latest report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, "on average, 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday."
According to the organization, in addition to abstaining from alcohol use until after the fireworks display is over, parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens if they are using fireworks. Young children should never be permitted to handle fireworks.
Proper handling of fireworks varies by type, but instructions and use should be clearly stated on the label. In addition, the organization always recommends having water ready both in a bucket and in a charged hose.
Burns and eye injuries can occur if safety guidelines are not followed. Safety glasses should be worn by the designated shooter while those watching the display maintain a safe distance away to enjoy the show.
Fireworks laws across the country can also vary both on a state and local level. Legal fireworks in one state may not be legal in another.
"For state regulations, we suggest contacting the State Fire Marshal, but consumers should also check with their local fire department for the fireworks that are approved to purchase and use in their city or county," Apel said.
Fireworks also pose fire hazards, especially in areas that have experienced ongoing drought conditions or persistent heat. State and local officials may issue a fireworks ban based on the current weather conditions in the area, especially if wildfire risks are high.
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Considerations for a fireworks ban include the drought monitor, soil dryness and the amount of precipitation the region has received when compared to their normal average.
"In 2013, there were 15,600," Apel said, referring to structure and outdoor fires started by fireworks usage.
According to the organization, "dud" fireworks can also pose a hazard and should be submerged in water after waiting for 20 minutes. If a firework does not ignite correctly, consumers should not try to ignite it.
Disposal of spent fireworks is also important to help mitigate the risk of fire hazards.
Once all used fireworks have been soaked in water, their remains should be placed in a nonflammable trash can, outside and several feet away from a home, deck or other flammable structures.
For more fireworks safety tips and resources, Apel recommends visiting the non-profit's website at www.fireworkssafety.org.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
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