Fireworks safety tips for the July Fourth holiday

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

Fireworks are synonymous with our celebration of our nation’s independence. Unfortunately, fireworks are also responsible for thousands of injuries each year.

The most likely candidates for serious injuries are children and teens. Yet, we know from past years that even the rich and famous can be injured using consumer fireworks. Perhaps the most recent example was NFL player Jason Pierre-Paul, who almost blew off his right hand while handling fireworks in 2015.

Despite the dangers associated with fireworks, few people seem to understand the risks associated with the use and misuse of consumer fireworks. Every year, fireworks cause serious burns, devastating injuries, fires and even death.

Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside fires. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 40 injuries, and an average of $43M in direct property damage.

Fireworks were the cause of the 2014 house fire at 305-307 North Walnut Avenue that resulted in one death, displaced 14 residents, caused $140,000 in property damage, and created what is now a vacant lot. It also resulted in an individual being arrested, pleading guilty and being incarcerated.

In 2017, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 12,900 people for fireworks-related injuries. In the 30 days surrounding July 4, there are approximately 280 injuries a day requiring a hospital emergency room visit.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 54% of those injuries were to the extremities and 36% were to the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for more than one-third (36%) of the estimated injuries.

In fact, sparklers account for 25% of fireworks injuries requiring an emergency room visit. Every year I see small children waving sparklers in the air. Yet, sparklers burn at 1200 degrees or more. In comparison, cakes bake at 350 degrees, wood burns at 575 degrees, and glass melts at 900 degrees.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these tips when using fireworks:

• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

• Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.

• Parents don’t realize that young children often suffer injuries from sparklers. Since sparklers can burn at temperatures hot enough to melt some metals.

• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.

• Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

• 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 fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.

• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

• After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

• Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones offers the following tips:

• Commercial fireworks are extremely dangerous if not handled properly.

• The only type of fireworks that can be legally discharged by the public are trick and novelty devices – items that smoke, sparkle, snap and snake.

• Fireworks should only be used by adults, or children who are under direct adult supervision.

• Novelty devices get hot enough to ignite clothing and cause burn injuries.

• Nationwide, fireworks cause more than 12,900 injuries requiring an emergency room visit.

• Nationwide, fireworks result in an average of 8 deaths each year.

• In addition to serious injuries and deaths, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year.

• I would recommend that fireworks not be purchased to use at home.

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Wilson Health, Emerson Climate Technologies, Buckeye Ford, NK Telco, Cargill, Ferguson Construction, Goffena Furniture and S&S Hospitality Management, there will be an outstanding fireworks show in honor of Shelby County’s Bicentennial. Take your family and watch a show that is put on by trained professionals. No matter how you choose to celebrate our nation’s birthday, do something kind for someone and stay safe.

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.