home fireworks display
The Fourth of July is a swell summer day, isn't it? You hang out in the hammock, grill a few burgers, and watch—or maybe light your own—fireworks. It's great family fun—if you play it safe with those fireworks.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more fires are reported on Independence Day than any other day of the year, with more than half those fires caused by fireworks. Added to fires are injuries. In 2007, the latest year for which statistics could be found, an estimated 9,800 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries. Many of these accidents can be avoided if the proper safety measures are taken. This Fourth of July, if you live in an area where fireworks are legal and feel the need to try them out, protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors with these safety tips.

Have a designated shooter. Make sure the person using the fireworks is a responsible adult. Never mix alcohol with fireworks, says Ralph Apel, president of the National Council on Fireworks Safety (NCFS). The NCFS also suggests the shooter should wear safety glasses because eye and face damage tend to be the most common forms of fireworks-related injury.

Know the fireworks you are using. Carefully read all the safety and warning labels. Do not use fireworks that have been bought illegally, and do not use fireworks that have no warning labels. Apel says consumers should buy their fireworks only from a licensed dealer. If you're planning on having a festival of lights in your own backyard, make sure you use only consumer (formerly Class C) fireworks. Leave the display (formerly Class B) fireworks to the professionals. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), the legal limit for explosive material in a consumer firework is 50 milligrams, which the APA notes is about the size of half a common aspirin tablet.

Do not use illegal or homemade fireworks. Use fireworks only as they are intended to be used. Do not put multiple fireworks together and light them off as one. Make sure to purchase only legal fireworks kits. It is illegal to make your own fireworks. Tampering with legal fireworks or building your own is dangerous and can lead to unexpected explosions. Fire Chief and NCFS board member Kyle L. Ienn, of Ralston, Nebraska, says the majority of the accidents he has responded to weren't caused by fireworks but by illegal explosives that people made and treated like fireworks.

Follow local and state laws and regulations. Make sure you know and understand what types of fireworks—if any—can be used in your area. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 45 states, including Connecticut, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania, allow certain types of consumer fireworks to be sold and used. Five states have banned the sale and use of all consumer fireworks: Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Be sure to look into federal, state, and local safety standards for igniting fireworks. The American Pyrotechnics Association provides information on state-by-state fireworks control laws. You might also check with your local fire department to ask about regulations in your area.

Have some form of water ready. Keep a hose and a bucket of water close at hand. Use the hose to put out stray flames or sparks from firecrackers. Hose down any duds, or fireworks that do not ignite when lit, and let them sit for at least 20 minutes before handling to ensure they aren’t delayed starters. After the wait time has elapsed, soak the firework in a bucket of water for an additional 15 to 20 minutes before disposing of it. Chief Ienn suggests using a hose to wet the ground where the fireworks were lit after your celebration. During the July 4th season, he says, firefighters respond to lots of small grass fires, as well as small fires in trash cans and dumpsters in which fireworks were lit. When disposing of dud fireworks and firework fragments, make sure they have been thoroughly soaked. Reserve a doubled trash bag for saturated fireworks and keep it out of and away from any residential structures. Check your local waste management guidelines for proper disposal in your area. Do not place unused fireworks in the garbage. Store them in a cool, dry place away from flammable objects or liquids and out of the reach of children.
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