Tips for a safe Fourth of July

July 2, 2014 

As our community bustles with the excitement of the upcoming Fourth of July festivities, it’s time to review firework safety to ensure your holiday is injury free. A 2012 report from the U.S. National Product Safety Commission noted an average of 200 people go the emergency room each day with fireworks related injuries in the month of July. By taking a few precautions, you can significantly decrease your families’ risk of injury.

Follow these safety tips:

Observe the law. Lighting fireworks is prohibited in many communities. Check with your local police or fire departments before lighting fireworks at home.

Buy only legal fireworks (legal fireworks will be labeled with the manufacturer’s name and directions for use). Illegal fireworks usually go by the names M-80, M100, blockbuster or quarter-pounder. These explosives were banned in 1966, but still account for many fireworks injuries. Never make your own fireworks.

Read and follow all warnings and instructions on packaging.

Young children should never play with fireworks. Children do not understand the danger involved and cannot react appropriately in case of emergency. Sparklers, considered by many the “safe” firework for the young, can reach 1,800 degrees – hot enough to melt gold. If your children are around sparklers, make sure they keep them outside and away from faces, clothing and hair. Sparklers should be immersed in sand once they go out. They remain very hot and can burn.

Fill a bucket of water or sand, set up a water hose and always have a fire extinguisher on hand.

Because fireworks are very loud, you may want to place ear muffs on young children. This will help to prevent any damage to the ear drum.

Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they’ll run away or get injured.

Safety tips while igniting fireworks:

Never light fireworks indoors or within closed in areas. Fireworks are for outdoor use only.

Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.

Move everyone to a safe distance from the fireworks and have them remain there until the show is finished.

Fireworks may backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction, so encourage everyone to be alert and watch.

Never allow children to light the fireworks. This should be done only by a responsible adult.

Tie long hair back, wear safety goggles and fitted clothing when lighting fireworks to avoid injury and fire.

Light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from houses, dry leaves and other flammable materials.

Make sure the fireworks are pointing to the sky and not to the side.

Avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket - the friction could cause them to ignite.

Light only one firework at a time.

Never lean over the top of fireworks to light them.

Never ignite fireworks in a glass or metal container.

Fireworks should never be thrown or held in a person’s hands while being lit.

Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned, appear to have gone out or are believed to be “duds.”

After the Fireworks:

Place all unused fireworks and lighters out of the reach of children.

If there are any fireworks that did not light properly, approach them with caution after waiting fifteen minutes or longer.

Place the faulty fireworks and the firework debris into a bucket of water.

Enjoy the season while using common sense and being safe. Injury prevention is the only cure for trauma.

This article was written by Trina Cole, a trauma program coordinator at Saint Luke’s East Hospital for the Lee’s Summit Health Education Advisory Board, a mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.

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