Stop and think twice before you light off your own fireworks
What you need to know about local laws and important safety precautions
Fourth of July is just around the corner and that means fireworks – and fireworks safety.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about fireworks,” said Deborah Colby, owner of Champny’s Fireworks in Bow. “Because they are legal to buy for people, ages 21 and over, a common misconception is everything is safe—not true. Everything needs to be handled with care to ensure everyone’s safety.”
She said one of the most important safety tips for those who plan to use fireworks, or firecrackers as they are legal now in New Hampshire, is to make sure there is a water source nearby — a bucket or a hose. She also said fireworks should never be lit while in someone’s hand.
“Things should be secured on or in the ground, including launching tubes,” she said. “You want to block your fireworks with bricks or blocks to secure them on the side. It keeps them from tipping over and shooting at people.”
She said reloadable fireworks require additional safety precautions.
“Brick it, block it, nail it down or bury it 5 inches into the ground so it won’t tip over,” she said. “Never light a shell outside of the tube. Make sure it is top-side up and light only one at a time. People need to wait three-and-a-half minutes or more between each shell being discharged to ensure the new shell won’t be ignited by a hot ember in the tube.”
Other practical safety tips include not drinking alcohol while lighting fireworks, wearing protective eyewear and not wearing flip-flops, Colby said.
“When you light a firework never look down in the tube,” she added. “Make sure to always inspect the tube before lighting them, too, to make sure there are no cracks.”
One of the most common misconceptions pertains to the use of Roman candles. Colby said many people come into her store and think they can hold one in their hands.
“This could cause the loss of fingers and should never be allowed,” she said. “It is very important for parents to know safe handling so they know how to model proper safety and also what to look for when supervising others. Please ask questions about each item you buy so you can limit the risk of harm.”
According to Chris Wyman, an investigator with the NH Fireworks Safety and Enforcement Unit, the consequences for those who do not properly use fireworks are very real. In 2015 – the last year for which data has been released – there were about 12,000 injuries reported to emergency rooms in the United States. The majority of injuries take place in the two weeks leading up to and after July 4.
“Eight thousand injuries are reported between June 19 and July 19,” he said. “Fireworks are extremely dangerous – even the novelty things people think are harmless, like sparklers, are extremely dangerous.”
Colby said her recommendation for sparklers is that parents buy the tall ones and securely stick them in the ground before lighting them.
“Children can still enjoy and watch them,” she said. “If you do choose to give your child a sparkler, please make sure they are closely supervised by an adult…There are so many wonderful things that kids can enjoy watching – they get delight out of these items, but parents need to be responsible for their use.”
Wyman said that the tips of sparklers reach upwards of 1,200 degrees F.
“They can easily set children’s clothing on fire,” he said. “We had a child in New Hampshire whose clothing came into contact with a tip and 20 percent of her body was burned – it was serious.”
“The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to enjoy a public display by licensed professionals,” he said. “Find out when your community is doing a professional fireworks display and go there with your family and enjoy.”
For those who choose to light off fireworks, Colby said, “Have a healthy respect for them; use the precautions that are recommended and only buy from a licensed fireworks store.”
Rob Levey is CEO of Exponential Squared, a marketing and organizational development company focused on helping small to medium businesses. Rob never strays too far from his roots – you will find his freelance writing in numerous publications, including Parenting NH.