ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The upcoming Fourth of July marks the 245th anniversary of America’s independence. Celebrated with barbeques and parades, the holiday is synonymous with fireworks – classified as dangerous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. While they thrill and leave spectators in awe, fireworks can bring injuries and pain with them.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 180 people go to the emergency room every day with firework-related injuries in the month around the 4th of July holiday with 57 percent of injuries involving burns. All too often, Independence Day festivities can lead to excessive alcohol use; just like driving and drinking is a bad combination, shooting consumer fireworks and drinking any quantity of alcohol absolutely is a bad combination.
What is the safest way to celebrate? The National Safety Council advises everyone to leave fireworks to the experts and enjoy the excitement at public displays instead of using fireworks at home.
The NSC cautions that while fireworks may be legal, they are not safe. In fact, consumer fireworks are generally considered more hazardous than some military explosives. However, if you live in an area where setting off consumer fireworks is permitted, make sure there is an appointed and acknowledged designated launcher who has not consumed any alcohol. Even a small amount of alcohol, such as one beer or glass of wine, increases the risk of impaired judgment and may degrade an individual’s ability to properly set up and safely use consumer fireworks.
In addition to the alcohol that you drink, safety experts warn that using hand sanitizer while shooting fireworks is a dangerous mix. This is relevant given the widespread use of hand sanitizer during COVID.
Hand sanitizer contains 60-80 percent alcohol and is highly flammable. It takes about 30 seconds to dry, but residue remains on the hands and can cause 3rd degree burns if ignited. Safer alternatives include hand washing with soap and water and/or using punk sticks to light fireworks. Punk sticks are made of bamboo and coated with compressed sawdust. Long and slow burning with no open flame, punk sticks are a safer choice around children. Due to their length, the user can maintain a safer distance from the firework they are trying to light.
Other generally accepted firework safety rules include:
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
- Read and follow the instructions on how to use the item.
- Always have a bucket of water, or water hose, nearby.
- Maintain adult supervision and never give fireworks to young children – even sparklers are risky as they can burn at 2000 degrees.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks and do not let any part of your body cover the fireworks.
- Wear hearing protection – explosive sounds like firecrackers are more hazardous to hearing than other loud noise.
- Only use fireworks outdoors.
- Never throw or point fireworks at another person.
- Do not handle or try to relight duds. Wait 20-30 minutes, soak the duds in water, and then properly dispose of them.
And remember, alcohol and fireworks are an explosively bad combination!