The only thing more American than apple pie on the Fourth of July is the fireworks – for many people, they’re an indispensable part of the celebration. But they also come with a great deal of risk, so they’re best left to the professionals, or handled with the utmost caution at home.
Every year (especially during the summer), hundreds of people flood emergency rooms and hospitals with injuries sustained from fireworks: everything from severe burns to eye damage to critical situations such as missing fingers or toes. Sparklers may seem like the most harmless form, and are popular for home use – but they can reach temperatures as high as 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. That can have disastrous consequences if used incorrectly. Young children should not be allowed to play with sparklers, and if older children are, it should always be under adult supervision. It’s also important to explain to them why sparklers are a responsibility, and to teach them some safety rules: they should be kept well away from hair, clothing, and the face – their own as well as others’. They should keep some space between them and their friends, and no one should point or throw sparklers at anyone else, as they can backfire or light objects quickly.
Many cities and states have actually banned home fireworks altogether, so if you do plan to light some small ones at home, make sure they’re legal in your area. If they are, take some precautions when purchasing: legal fireworks are always labelled with a manufacturer and instructions, so don’t buy any that are unmarked or don’t have directions. Make sure to read these directions! Don’t assume that they’re straightforward; the instructions are there for a reason.
When setting up your home fireworks station, choose a smooth, flat area on a non-flammable surface, such as a driveway. It should be a good distance form your house and any other flammable objects. Keep buckets of water handy for extinguishing.
If a firework or sparkler doesn’t light or only partially ignites, never try to relight it – simply place it in the water and move on. Only light one thing at a time, and step away quickly; make sure other participants aren’t standing too close, either. Finally, they should be lit out in the open: don’t ignite them in glass, metal, or paper containers.