The risk of fireworks injury is highest for children ages 5-14, with more than twice the risk for the general population.
This is not to say kindergarteners are setting off fireworks (we certainly hope not!). This is a serious reminder that bystanders are in as much danger (or more) than the people who are doing the actual lighting. However, even sparklers – a kid favorite – can reach temperatures around 1000 to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit!
“Safe and sane fireworks don’t exist,” says Dr. John Hall, Division Manager of Fire Analysis and Research for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). “When things go wrong with fireworks, they go very wrong, very fast, far faster than any fire protection provisions can reliably respond.”
Besides the obvious entry of “parents everywhere”, people that are committed to promoting injury prevention and fire safety during Fourth of July celebrations (and New Year’s and other days that are observed with the lighting of fireworks) include:
- Consumer Product Safety Commission
- National Fire Protection Association
- Offices of Fire Marshals
- Medical Associations
- National Council on Fireworks Safety
National, state, and local organizations are getting together this Independence Day because it is the time of year in which there are the most injuries due to consumer fireworks. These injuries can be grievous and life-altering. No one likes the idea that a few simple minutes of flash and bang can turn into a lifetime of blindness or debilitating injury, and these organizations are making the moves necessary to limit the availability of home fireworks to help prevent it.
In the month surrounding Independence Day (before and after), 200 people a day end up in the emergency room due to consumer fireworks-related injuries. Those that died did so because they were monkeying around with their own homemade devices.
In 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for fireworks-related injuries; 57% of 2010 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 37% were to the head.
Most of the injuries were from sparklers, reloadable shells, and firecrackers, though a third of all injuries was unspecified. The most grievous injuries include loss of limbs and disfiguring burns that never go away.
Property Damage, Fires
Typically, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.
In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 total structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in eight reported civilian deaths, 60 civilian injuries and $36 million in direct property damage. Though different than bodily harm, this type of damage is no small thing.
Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), along with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has founded the Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks. The Alliance is working to warn individuals about the dangers of consumer fireworks and instead, encourages people to celebrate and enjoy holidays with professional displays of fireworks.
The Alliance members include:
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- American Academy of Ophthalmology
- American Association of Public Health Physicians
- American Burn Association
- American College of Emergency Physicians
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery
- American Society for Surgery of the Hand
- Center for Injury Research & Policy
- Emergency Nurses Association
- Fire Department Safety Officers Association
- International Association of Arson Investigators
- International Association of Fire Chiefs
- International Association of Fire Fighters
- International Fire Marshals Association
- Metropolitan Fire Chiefs
- Minnesotans For Safe Fireworks
- National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
- National Association of State Fire Marshals
- National Association of School Nurses
- National Volunteer Fire Council
- Prevent Blindness America
Too Risky for Amateurs, says NFPA
To keep the public safe from fireworks-related injuries and deaths, the nonprofit NFPA urges everyone to treat fireworks, whether legal or illegal, as suitable only for use by trained professionals.
Some of the more dangerous fireworks are the ones that fail to discharge or explode. They may be lying around for people, and especially curious children, to pick up. Many are still active despite not going off right away. They are simply too risky to handle and should be disposed of in a bucket of water immediately.
Michael Shannon was killed as he was standing between his daddy’s legs during a family celebration one Fourth of July. His mother said that she assumed these products were safe because they were on the market. She couldn’t have been more wrong, and she lost her son due to her assumption.
The Shannons have been working to spread the awareness of the dangers of consumer fireworks to other families like theirs who may think they can use them safely. It is their message that there simply is not.
Please Stay Safe
Though we’ve taken the stance that consumer fireworks should be avoided, we would like to share some safety tips in the interest of harm reduction.
- Know your fireworks; Read the warning labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
- Avoid fireworks packaged in brown paper. Thee are generally not consumer grade or made for professional displays.
- Have a designated shooter to organize and shoot your family show.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
- Parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens if they are using fireworks.
- Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
- Fireworks should only be used outdoors.
- Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks.
- Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.
- Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
- Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor garbage can.
- Never attempt to alter or modify consumer fireworks and use them only in the manner in which they were intended.
- Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.