Ooh… Ahh…Oww! – The Do’s and Don’ts of Fireworks Safety

Sam Ashoo, MD

By: Sam Ashoo, MD, Medical Director Bixler Emergency Center

With Independence Day just around the corner, many families will be stocking up on sparklers, fountains and spinners to set off in their own yards and driveways. Included on the summer “to-do” list should be a discussion about fireworks safety. Over two-thirds of all fireworks-related injuries happen during June and July.  According to the most recent data available, between June 17, 2011 and July 17, 2011, more than 6,200 firework related injuries occurred.

The best way to protect you and your loved ones is to leave handling fireworks to the professionals. Professional firework displays like the ones at Tom Brown Park follow many safety precautions in order to keep the staff and public safe from inherent dangers. When fireworks are bought for home use, it is up to each person, parent or guardian present to ensure they are used safely. Unfortunately, many people do not realize how dangerous even the simplest fireworks can be.

Sparklers are a good example.  Many a three-year-old has stared in awe while watching an older sibling   waving a sparkler wildly and writing in the sky with it. Meanwhile, supervising adults may not realize that sparklers burn at a temperature of approximately 1,800 degrees F. This temperature is so hot it can melt some metals and cause third-degree burns. In fact, sparklers are the second highest cause of fireworks-related injuries that require hospitalization.

If you decide to use fireworks at home, keep in mind the following do’s and don’ts:

  • DO have a supervising adult at all times. Children can get too caught up in the fun of fireworks to remember safety requirements. This places them at a high risk for injury.
  • DO keep water nearby. Not only should you have water on hand for emergencies (water is the initial treatment to stop the skin from burning), but used fireworks should be doused with water to protect against garbage fires.
  • DO choose a safe launch site. Be sure to light fireworks away from houses, vehicles, dry leaves or grass and other flammable materials.  Choose a flat surface to reduce the risk of your fireworks tipping, and consider mowing or watering the grass if you are in a lawn or field.
  • DON’T try to relight a firework that doesn’t fully ignite. Wait about 20 minutes to make sure there is no delayed ignition, and then soak it in water before disposing of it.
  • DON’T carry fireworks in pockets. Friction could cause the fireworks to ignite.
  • DON’T stand over fireworks when lighting. Always keep your body away from the fireworks, and back away as quickly as possible once fireworks are lit.
  • DON’T ignite fireworks in containers, especially ones made of metal or glass. The container may explode or shatter, sending shrapnel though the air.
  • DON’T use ice on burns. If a burn occurs, remove any clothing from the area and clean it using cool, not cold, water. Do not use ice, and seek medical attention immediately.
  • DO practice these tips at all times. Being conscious of fireworks safety will keep you from visiting the local emergency room.

In addition to practicing good fireworks safety, remember that personal fireworks are not legal in all states. Be sure to check with the local law enforcement agency to make sure the fireworks you wish to use are allowed; not only could an injury ruin your fireworks fun but so could being arrested or fined.  Tallahassee Memorial encourages everyone to “play it safe” and have a fun, injury-free summer.

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