Fireworks are a fundamental part of Independence Day celebrations, but a single lapse in attention to safety can lead to a very unfortunate ending. In the weeks before and after the July 4 holiday, there are about 200 fireworks injuries a day. Last year, that added up to nearly 6,000 reported injuriesâ€”mostly burns and lacerations to the hands, face, and head. And a new U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission study indicates that in 2009, there were two deaths and nearly 9,000 emergency room visits for injuries resulting from fireworks-related incidents.
Most of these injuries could have been avoided by using simple safety procedures and by staying inside the limits of the laws. The list the permissible fireworks is defined in section 3302.1 of the Virginia Fire Prevention Code. The following are listed as permissible in Virginia: Sparklers, fountains, Pharoah’s serpents, caps for pistols and pinwheels. Anything that goes into the air or explodes is considered unlawful and subject to seizure and issuance for a summons with the penalty being a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Consumers who decide to purchase legal fireworks are encouraged to take the following safety steps:
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Avoid buying fireworks that come in brown paper packaging, as this can often be a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
- Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Parents often don’t realize that there are many injuries from sparklers to children under five. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move back to a safe distance immediately after lighting.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light one item at a time then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks fully complete their functioning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding to prevent a trash fire
Proper supervision is critical. Chief Neal White of the Berryville Town Police points out, “Burn and explosion injuries can be very painful, proper care should be taken to ensure that the fireworks are safely displayed and kept out of the reach of unsupervised children.”
In addition, precautions should be taken to prevent fires caused by fireworks. Conditions in our area have been extremely dry. Grass and undergrowth can easily catch fire and spread out of control quickly. A garden hose or water source should be kept close by in case of an emergency.