The 4th of July stands out as THE summer holiday for family, friends, barbecues, and fireworks.
Attending a professional fireworks show can be a great way to celebrate! But if you choose to set off fireworks of your own this summer, be sure to practice proper firework safety etiquette.
As fun as they are, improperly handled fireworks can lead to some serious trouble.*
- An estimated 10,000 injuries were treated in hospitals in the US in 2019.
- 7,300 of those injuries occurred between June 21 and July 21 (over the 4th of July holiday).
- In 2018, fireworks caused nearly 19,500 fires – including 1,900 structural fires.**
Below, we’ve outlined a few common firework safety tips, as well as best practices in the event of injuries, to help you and your family get through the holiday incident-free.
Fireworks Safety Tips
The Do’s and Don’ts of Fireworks
Do: Use Legal Fireworks.
Many states have strict regulations on fireworks. However, there are fireworks that can be used at home by the masses.
Before you run off to stock up for your at-home firework show, take note of your local laws – house fires and bodily harm are not the only potentially negative consequences of a home fireworks display gone awry.
Author’s Note: This is in no way legal advice, just general recommendations.
Legal in NC: Consumer Fireworks (wire sparklers, glow worms, smoke bombs, etc.)
Legal in SC: Most Types of Fireworks (excluding ground salutes, M-80’s, or smaller bottle rockets)
If you are caught setting off illegal fireworks in NC, you can be charged with a Class 2 Misdemeanor, fined up to $500, and spend up to six months in jail.
SC residents can also be fined and charged with a misdemeanor for setting off illegal fireworks.
CPI Safety Tip: Know and follow your local firework laws.***
Don’t: Allow Kids to Light Fireworks.
Only adults should handle and light fireworks. Never allow children near fireworks, as this can result in serious injuries.
How hot do sparklers burn? If you’ve ever wondered, they can reach over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (hot enough to melt copper!). Though you may think it could be a cute photo-op or a festive activity, be very careful if you choose to give children sparklers.
CPI Safety Tip: Never let children use or light fireworks, and make sure they’re careful with sparklers! Children should only play with sparklers outside and under the close supervision of adults. Sparklers account for 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries.****
Do: Light Fireworks in A Safe Manner
Don’t light fireworks on dirt, gravel, or even grass, as these uneven surfaces can result in the firework tipping over while firing.
Also, never hold a firework in your hand while lighting it. The firework could go off before you’ve had a chance to release it – causing bodily harm.
CPI Safety Tip: You can’t be too safe with fireworks! Ensure the firework is on level ground before igniting (you can use a flat, wood board if there’s only grass around), and don’t re-light fireworks if the fuse goes out.
Do: Have Water Nearby.
You never know when a night of fireworks can get out of hand and set something on fire. To prevent this, it’s good to have a hose or bucket of water on hand.
It’s also important to dispose of fireworks safely by pouring water over any used fireworks before throwing them away.
CPI Safety Tip: Keep water close by, and drench used fireworks in water before picking them up or throwing them away. Even if they’ve already gone off, they can still be hot to the touch.
Common Fireworks Injuries
These often occur while lighting fireworks. Injuries can range from redness to blisters or worse. Hand burns can be painful, and sometimes require medical attention.
Be sure to keep water nearby and have over-the-counter ointment in your medicine cabinet before lighting any fireworks.
If a burn does occur:
- Clean the area with water.
- Apply the appropriate ointment.
- Seek medical care if needed.
Eye injuries are often caused by being too close to a firework while lighting it or while the firework is burning. These can be serious and result in a loss of vision.
To prevent eye injuries, have observers stand far back from the fireworks. If you’re the one lighting the fireworks, wear protective eyewear.
If an injury does occur:
- Do not let the person rub or touch the eye, as this will likely cause more damage.
- Do not flush the eye out.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
Loss of Hearing
Fireworks are LOUD and can result in a loss of hearing if you are standing too close to them when they go off. This could range from temporary ringing to more permanent hearing loss.
The best way to prevent this is to stand far away and wear earplugs. If hearing loss does occur and lasts longer than a few minutes, consult a medical professional.
Have a Safe & Fun-filled Celebration
Spend your 4th enjoying the beauty of fireworks, not reacting to an avoidable accident. By practicing proper fireworks safety, you and your family can enjoy a beautiful (and safe) fireworks-filled celebration.
*Consumer Product Safety Commission, “2019 Fireworks Annual Report.”
**Department of Public Safety, “Celebrating with Fireworks? Make Sure You Celebrate Safely.”
***American Pyrotechnics Associations, “Directory of State Laws.”
****National Safety Council, “Leave Fireworks to the Experts.”