Fireworks add excitement to any celebration, lighting up the night sky to ooohs and aaahs. Every year, though, thousands of children, teenagers, and adults suffer injuries from consumer fireworks. These include burns, permanent scarring, loss of vision, dismemberment, and even death. According to the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA):
- Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires; 300 vehicle fires; and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an average of 3 deaths and 40 civilian injuries, as well as an average $43 million in direct property damage.
- In 2015, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks related injuries. 51% of those injuries were to the extremities (arms and legs) and 41% were to the head. Children younger than 15 years old accounted for 1/4 of these injuries.*
Fireworks safety guidelines
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to help avoid most of these injuries. If you choose to use consumer fireworks, follow these easy tips to help keep everyone safe:
- Buy legal fireworks from reliable sellers. Note: Some states ban fireworks, including sparklers. Check with your local government agency to determine if fireworks are banned in your state.
- Read and follow all label instructions and warnings on the box of fireworks.
- An adult should always light fireworks. Never allow children to ignite, play with them, or stand near them.
- Use fireworks outdoors only. Choose a smooth, flat surface away from people, pets, houses, and flammable materials like dry leaves.
- All pets should be indoors during a fireworks display. Many pets are scared of the loud noises, and could be injured, or run away and become lost.
- Never throw or point fireworks at other people. Be sure that all people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Always have water handy. A garden hose and a bucket should be in easy reach. After a firework burns out, pour water on it and soak it completely.
- Never take fireworks apart, mix their contents with anything else, or attempt to make your own fireworks.
- Always wear eye protection when lighting fireworks. Never have any part of your body over the fireworks.
- Light only 1 firework at a time. Move away quickly once the firecracker is lit.
- Never re-light a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes, then soak the dud firework in a bucket of water.
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
- Never shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
- Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water. Afterward, put them in a fireproof container that has a cover.
- Store unused fireworks in a cool, dry place.
- After a fireworks display, do not let your child pick up the firework pieces that are on the ground. These pieces could still explode.
A special note about sparklers
Sparklers also are popular during fireworks displays and other celebratory events. Unfortunately, these small, hand-held fireworks also cause injuries, especially in young children. Many sparkler injuries occur when it gets so hot that a person drops or throws it, potentially burning or igniting their clothing or that of others close by. The National Council on Fireworks Safety recommends that only children over the age 12 be allowed to use sparklers. The organization also provides these tips:
- Wear closed-toe shoes to prevent burns on your feet.
- Light only one sparkler at a time.
- Stand when using a sparkler. Never run with a sparkler in your hand.
- Never wave a sparkler or throw one.
- Keep the sparkler at arm's length. Stand far away from people.
- Never hold a child in your arms if you are also holding a sparkler.
- Once lit, the sparkler is very hot. After it has burned out, put the sparkler in a bucket of water.
The best way to stay safe and still enjoy the fireworks? Go to a professional display put on by fireworks experts, sit back, and enjoy the show.
*These injury estimates were obtained or derived from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’2015 Fireworks Annual Report by Yongling Tu.
United States Consumer Products Safety Commission: www.cpsc.gov
National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA): www.nfpa.org