It’s the duty of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to test and approve all fireworks. If CPSC doesn’t deem the firework safe, it doesn’t get the CPSC seal of approval for consumer use.
What’s so dangerous about fireworks in brown packaging?
The CPSC warns against buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because it is a sure sign the fireworks were made for professional displays and could be dangerous for consumers to use. In addition to the CPSC warning, Julie Heckman, executive director at American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) adds, “be aware of fireworks not packaged with warnings and labels as they may be illegal explosives and very dangerous!” If you’re gearing up to use legal fireworks, here are some firework safety tips you shouldn’t be without from the CPSC and APA.
How dangerous can they be?
The fireworks sold in big variety packs at your favorite store can’t be that dangerous, right? After all, they look like they could be sold in the toys section. But all fireworks, even those fun novelties, and sparklers can be dangerous when not used safely. According to the 2018 CPSC fireworks safety report, there were an estimated 5,600 injuries just in the one month surrounding the Fourth of July in 2018, and about 2,000 of those injuries happened to kids 14 years old and younger. Smaller fireworks are often the most dangerous, especially these ones.
Adult supervision is a must
When it comes to firework safety tips and children, the CPSC makes it pretty clear—never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Even sparklers, which kids have been waving around for hundreds of years, are quite dangerous. When you get down to it, it’s a very pointy object that burns as hot a blow torch—about 2,000 degrees. “Extreme care must be practiced when sparklers are used and only under close adult supervision,” says Heckman. Sparklers injuries accounted for about 500 injuries in tots five years old and younger. Watch this new sparkler safety video from the APA with your kid’s before lighting one.
Ignite the firework, not yourself
If you’re going to set some fireworks off, don’t do it barefoot. Heckman says to wear closed-toe shoes and safety glasses to protect your eyes, keep long hair pulled back, and don’t wear clothes with loose hanging fabric that could catch fire. Use a utility style lighter for a safer distance between your arm and the fuse. Also, absolutely do not smoke while around fireworks.
Be alert and sober
BBQs and beer go hand in hand on the Fourth, but if you don’t want to lose a hand (or hurt someone else) don’t drink and set off fireworks. An incident in the CPSC report tells of a 40-year old man who admitted to drinking before lighting the fireworks. Although he felt impaired, he lit a mortar type firework. The mortar exploded unexpectedly, and he broke three fingers. Spectators, be careful when it comes to drinking alcohol because these weird factors could make one drink feel like two, and you could unknowingly stumble into danger.
Keep your pets inside. Even if they aren’t afraid of the noise or lights, a dog or cat’s curiosity of the fireworks could get them hurt or they could walk or run into the path of a firework. If your dog gets anxious during the Fourth of July, learn how to calm him or her down.
Where to ignite fireworks
Firework safety begins at home but don’t shoot them off near your house or off your deck. That’s just too close and could start a fire. Heckman says fireworks should be lit away from buildings and on a flat, level, hard, and fireproof surface with no debris like trash or vegetation that could catch on fire. Also, don’t light fireworks under powerlines or anything combustible, like a propane tank. Keep a bucket full of water close by and a garden hose. Be sure to turn the faucet on and ensure the water is running to the hose, so should you need to, you can put out a fire immediately.
Check the weather
The weather is actually a significant factor in firework safety, and it’s not just rain that can dampen the festivities. High winds conditions aren’t safe for lighting fireworks. Fireworks can tip over or the wind could send them in the path of spectators or passersby. Light fireworks with the prevailing wind blowing away from the spectators.
Keep spectators safe
Spectators should be watching from a safe distance. Heckman says for fountain and cone fireworks; spectators should be at least 25 feet away and for aerial fireworks at least 40 feet away. Remember, each state and municipality have specific laws regarding fireworks; check to find out which are legal in your state.
Never do these things with fireworks
Don’t shoot fireworks from a metal or glass container and never aim fireworks at another person. Don’t carry fireworks in your pocket. Never place any part of your body directly over a firework device. Never bundle fireworks for a bigger bang. It be might be tempting to combine fireworks or take them apart to make your own creation, but the CPSC says never to light more than one firework at a time.
Don’t relight a dud
Don’t relight a firework that didn’t go off the first time; it still could go off and explode. That’s what happened to a 29-year-old man who tried to relight a mortar. The mortar exploded and came out at a weird angle and hit him in the eye. It blew out his eyebrow ring and injured his eyeball, according to the CPSC report.
Don’t pick up fireworks you find
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been to a public fireworks show at your local park or just walking around your neighborhood, if you see a firework on the ground, leave it. There’s no telling why it’s on the ground. Report it to the police or fire department. If you’re a parent, be sure to warn your kids of this danger. Kids may pick up a discarded firework and think it’s an opportunity for some fun, but it could actually be one of the most dangerous fireworks out there.
Don’t be in a rush to pick up spent fireworks. Let them stand for at least 20 minutes before you pick them up, or you could get burned. Next, submerge all the fireworks in a bucket of water and let them soak overnight. (The same goes for duds, except to be extra safe and scoop them up with a shovel and then submerge in water.) Remove the soaked fireworks from the bucket and place in a trash bag and dispose of them with your other household trash. Firework safety, prep, and clean up are a lot of work. You might just want to head to the best firework show in your state and let the pros do it for you.