Fireworks are awesome, and kids especially love the bright displays. I mean, what's not to love about the lights, colors, and explosions. That said, the super basic fireworks safety rules many parents ignore can put a damper on any 4th of July celebrations . Nothing ruins a good time like a trip to the emergency room, right?
I'm not about to tell anyone to keep all fireworks away from kids. In fact, my dad let me light bottle rockets as soon as my chubby little fingers could hold the smoldering stick steady. These made for some amazing memories growing up, and nobody lost an eye.
In the midst of 4th of July fireworks celebrations, however, it's easy to forget that you're handling explosives. Sadly, most fireworks injuries affect children. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), children ages 5 to 9 are the group most likely to receive treatment for injuries related to fireworks in an emergency department, with older children being especially prone to injury. As further noted by the CPSC, there were approximately 5.2 fireworks injuries per 100,000 individuals in this age range. Oh, and the heat these consumer fireworks can give off is exceptional. As noted by the National Fire Protection Association, a simple sparkler can burn at 1,200° Fahrenheit, which is more than hot enough to melt glass. Yikes. That said, taking a few commonsense precautions will help you and your family enjoy fireworks safely.
1. Aim Away From People & Homes
This may sound obvious, but a large number of children will immediately point lit fireworks straight at any nearby siblings. It goes without saying, but pointing fireworks away from people and homes is crucial, as noted by Safe Kids Worldwide. They are for display, not weaponry.
2. Consider Your Surroundings
Has a drought affected your area for weeks, leaving the grass as dry as kindling? Consider watching YouTube videos of fireworks instead this year. Also, watch out for low tree limbs, power lines, and potentially flammable structures.
3. Dispose Of Debris
Lots of fireworks are packaged in cartoony, bright containers that appeal to kids. As explained by the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, however, fireworks debris could be hot or even "live," causing the potential for harm. Let the ashes lay where they fall.
4. Dress For The Occasion
This might not be the best day for your kid to rock a giant T-shirt. According to the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, it's smart to avoid loose clothing while shooting fireworks as long, loose clothes seem to attract sparks.
5. Go Pro
What's the safest way to enjoy fireworks? Let the professionals do all the work. Even small communities often boast impressive fireworks displays for holidays such as the 4th of July. Plus, these shows are bigger and more impressive than the typical box of consumer fireworks.
6. Have Extinguishers Handy
Prepare for anything. According to the Arlington Virginia Fire Department, it's smart to have a fire extinguisher or bucket of water on hand when shooting fireworks. If the explosives get out of control, at least you can douse them quickly.
7. Keep Pets Safe, Too
Fur babies often have a hard time with fireworks. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), you should keep pets away from crowded fireworks displays and consumer fireworks. Even unlit fireworks can include substances that are toxic to pets, such as heavy metals or arsenic, as further noted by the ASPCA.
8. Know Local Laws
Not every community is OK with fireworks. Before lighting up, check your local firework laws to make sure everything is above-board. Even if they are legal, you might consider checking in with your neighbors to make sure they're cool with fireworks, just to be extra-considerate.
9. Light Responsibly
Make sure you're in the right frame of mind for fireworks fun. According to The National Council on Fireworks Safety, the consumption of alcohol can make shooting fireworks even more dangerous. Mixing drunk adults and fireworks is almost certainly a bad idea.
10. Move Fast
When lighting fireworks, there is one crucial rule: move. Teach your kids the importance of backing away from lit fireworks. If they're old enough to light their own, make sure they know to beat feet as soon the fuse is lit.
11. Provide Adult Supervision
Kids can be erratic and impulsive. If given too much free rein around the fireworks stack, some kids start dueling with Roman candles or eating bang snaps. Adult supervision is very much required around explosive devices, even the tamest fireworks out there.
12. Purchase Legit Fireworks
Granted, it's unlikely any parent will hand a lit M-80 to a toddler. But as noted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), it's important to make sure you purchase legal consumer fireworks for your celebrations. Fireworks stands are typically above-board, but the person selling fireworks from the trunk of their car might not be peddling legal goods.
13. Shoot Fireworks As Directed
Don't tweak your fireworks. Avoid twisting fuses together, making homemade fireworks, or lighting firecrackers inside a can. (I know, I'm the fun police).
14. Treat Duds With Caution
Duds can be deadly or, at least, pretty annoying. As noted by the National Council on Fireworks Safety, you should never attempt to relight a firework dud. They might explode at random, like when you're peering over it. Let it hang out for about 20 minutes and then douse with with water instead.
15. Use Sparklers With Care
Sparklers may be the most magical fireworks of all, but they too can be dangerous. If you don't want to give your child something hot enough to melt glass, consider using glow sticks instead, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. They're a safe, fun way to play with light at night.