Fireworks: Safety First
A few steps of basic preparation can make your Fourth of July a time of celebration. Nothing can kill a celebration quite as quickly as someone getting seriously burned or a fire! According to the Fire Prevention Agency, more than 8,500 people are treated every year for fireworks injuries. The majority of them are teens and children and most of those are male. In addition to the injuries, there has been over 22,000 fires responsible for more than $42 million worth in property damage! It seems harmless, but fireworks are dangerous. Here are a few simple things you can do to make sure the celebration lasts beyond the beauty of the fireworks.
Planning ahead makes all the difference both in the quality of your presentation and its safety. There are several factors that play into the safest way to set off fireworks at home. Most important is the location. Next you need to select quality supplies. You will need also need extra helping hands and last, but not least by any means, you need to have items available for emergencies.
Location, Location, Location!
Find a place that is level, clean from debris, and away from plants and trees. A driveway can be a good place if there is room to be away from structures and vehicles. If this is not possible, look for a flat spot in the yard. An area at least 4 foot square is best. Grass fires can be deadly and damaging, so DO NOT light fireworks directly on the grass! Dry grass acts like gasoline to a fire. Find a large, flat piece of metal to place over the grass. Metal is best as it will not ignite. You can use a large sheet of plywood which you have washed with soapy water to remove anything that might ignite. The use of water on the wood will also help prevent the wood from catching on fire. Water the grass in the area under and around where you will be lighting the fireworks ahead of time to help prevent accidental ignition from sparks. Fireworks burn HOT! Do not underestimate the temperature of any of them regardless of how safe you deem them to be. A sparkler burns between 1000 and 1200 degrees! These are the ones we hand to our littlest of revelers! Make sure there is a clear path for stepping away 10 feet from them when lit and room for your "audience" to watch from a safe distance of at least 20 feet. Next, look around...check for flammable items. A trash bin, dog bed, or pile of firewood can all be a danger point. Move them, cover them or be prepared to douse them. Is there a neighbor's home nearby? We live on 7 wooded acres and have to watch for trees. You may have a neighbor nearby. Be aware that they may have combustible items or a wooden roof that could be a target for fire. Let them know ahead of time and they can be prepared as well.
Gather Your Supplies.
Begin with purchasing quality fireworks. Fireworks that are sold at a reputable location are more likely to behave in the manner in which you expect. A rocket that doesn't light opens the door for curiosity and second attempts which can lead to surprise accidental burns. Fireworks need to be kept in a cool, dry place. After purchasing them, you need to store them appropriately as well. Fireworks purchased from a distributor that has been kept in a tent throughout a soggy, rainy week may be duds or slow to light. Skip them. Buy them from somewhere else. Next you need punk, a long stick which is used to light fireworks, or a fireplace lighter or candle lighter. The extra length will give you added safety. They are also more comfortable! The ability to control the size of the flame on the lighter is an added bonus. You will also need a bucket of sand, an empty bucket and a bucket of water. The sand will work best for putting used sparklers out safely. It will absorb the heat and keep them from being touched by little ones. The sand can also be placed, in a thin layer, under the fireworks before igniting them. It will help keep them in place. IF you are allowed to purchase bottle rockets where you live, then sand is a must. Place sand in the bottom of the container you will be using to shoot them off. A glass bottle works best, such as an old coke bottle, therein the name bottle rocket, but a tall can or jar will work. Setting the container into the sand bucket allows for proper aiming and safer display. The sand in the bottom of the container will also keep it weighted down and won't let it fall over. A bucket of water will help put out any emergency before it gets out of hand. Be sure to move any duds off to one side without attempting a second lighting. When it has had sufficient time to completely be considered cool, place it into an empty bucket. After the celebration is over, completely immerse them in water. Do not allow them to be placed where they might cause an explosion and injury later, such as a burn barrel or the trash! Make sure they are completely diffused. The empty bucket is also a handy tool for gathering up the trash and remains following the display. It will help keep things safe for small children and animals afterwards.
Helping Hands Needed.
It is important to protect those who cannot react quickly to protect themselves, therefore make sure to have enough adults available to help with small children, animals and the elderly in case of an emergency. Fireworks are unpredictable, even well placed fireworks can go in an opposite direction from which they were intended. Be watchful and prepared. Each child should ideally have an adult responsible for their safety. Children move quickly and get hurt even more quickly! They do not have the physical coordination required to safely handle fireworks. Even if they are old enough to light them, are they coordinated enough to get away quickly and safely? This is an essential requirement! Explain to all children the one rule with fireworks: safety first. Make sure they know where it is safe for them to play, stand or sit. Make sure they know where to go if there is an emergency like a fire. Remind them to "Stop! Drop! and Roll!" if their clothes catch on fire. Speaking of clothes....make sure you and they are dressed in clothes that are not loose and dangling along with closed toe shoes. Flip flops will not protect feet from sparkler burns and loose clothes can easily ignite when leaning over fireworks. Children and animals aren't aware of how dangerous a firework can be. Watch to make sure they do not pick up used or dud fireworks. Sometimes a used firework is still hot and can burn children's hands and animals mouths. Make sure they are kept away from the ingition area. In addition, animals often panic because of the loud noises and quick movements from the fireworks. Make sure they are put in a safe place as far away from the sound and flashes as possible. Make sure they are as comfortable as possible.
In Case of Emergency....
Emergency items are needed even when you are prepared for safety, so have them ready ahead of time! Make sure to have a fire extinguisher, water hose and a first aid kit handy. Have someone who is NOT responsible for lighting the fireworks to be responsible for these items. This way if someone becomes injured there is someone who can help them immediately. The number one thing to know with burns is to put out the flames and immediately immerse only the burn area completely in cold water. This lowers the temperature of the burn and flushes out dirt. Do NOT use butter or ice. They will NOT help, they will increase the burn. Wrap with a cloth that is soft and clean such as a towel or gauze if you have it available. Immediately seek medical attention. Go to the location closest to you, an ambulance barn, fire station, or hospital. It is my hope this will not happen to you!
If you follow the above steps, you will be more likely to have a safe and fun fireworks celebration filled with many good memories! If you have extra tips to share, please feel free to comment below! Remember with fireworks: Safety First!
Text Copyright 2011 Deborah M. Carey
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