Straight, No Chaser: Fireworks Safety

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For many, the Fourth of July is a time of celebration, happiness and creation of good family memories. In the emergency room it’s one of the two worst days to have to work (excluding any Friday the 13ths that occur during a full moon…). I’d bet it’s even worse for firefighters, as over 50,000 fires are caused each year as a result of using fireworks. The presence of fireworks, grills, alcohol, driving and other hazardous activities make for an eventful day filled with many different types of trauma and drama, including the following:

  • Burns
  • Eye injuries
  • Finger/hand lacerations and amputations
  • Motor vehicle collisions

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That said, this isn’t about us; it’s about you. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to provide you with some safety tips to prevent injuries and enjoy your holiday. Yes, some of these may sound simplistic, but failure to follow these tips are the reasons people end up in emergency rooms.

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  • Tip #1 is to leave the fireworks to the professionals. If you want to enjoy a fireworks celebration, attend a public display. Your biggest risk here will be getting stuck in traffic.
  • If you like fireworks, get the legal kind. You can always identify legal fireworks by their being labeled with the manufacturer’s name and address. Also don’t try to make your own fireworks. Doesn’t that just sound like a formula for disaster?
  • Speaking of disasters, if you are going to use fireworks, don’t drink alcohol until everything’s done. Think about it. Alcohol + fire + explosives by design aren’t meant to have a happy ending.
  • Store your animals. They will become spooked by the fireworks and can have their hearing damaged by the blasts or otherwise hurt themselves escaping.

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  • If you allow fireworks in the home, don’t allow use by kids – or do so at your own risk. Did you know that sparklers, which many parents allow as a “safer” alternative to firecrackers, can get as hot as 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit?
  • Keep any fireworks outdoors, and keep a water supply nearby. These things cause fires.
  • Here’s a common mistake: do not light fireworks while holding. This is how your hands get burned or fingers get blown off.
  • Wear eye shields when using fireworks. Folks have lost vision and eyes playing with fireworks.
  • Do not keep fireworks in your pocket, as the friction can ignite them.
  • Never point fireworks at anything other than the sky or an open space. Buildings can catch on fire, and individuals will be injured.
  • Do not light fireworks in glass or metal containers. They explode and end up stuck in people.
  • Only attempt to light one firework at a time.
  • Never attempt to relight a dud. If it ends up not being a dud, it can fire unpredictably. If you have a dud, soak it in water for twenty minutes before attempting to discard it.
  • In fact, soak all fireworks in water prior to trashing them.
  • Do not allow kids to pick up fireworks after an event. You and they don’t know if any are still active.
  • Finally, remember that fireworks are not legal everywhere. You’re rather check and be safe then be fined or arrested if your activity is discovered.

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To be complete, here are some tips in the unfortunate event that an injury occurs as a result of fireworks.

  • Go to the closest major medical center immediately. This is an example of “time is tissue.” Don’t dally at home, and I’d recommend not even stopping at the closest emergency room. In the example when your eye or limb is at risk, you’re going to want to be at a trauma and/or burn center.
  • If an eye injury occurs as a result of fireworks, don’t rub or otherwise touch it. You’re more likely to cause additional damage than do anything constructive. Along the same line, don’t spend the time attempting to flush your eyes. Grab a shield or anything that can be used to protect the eye, and get to the emergency room. If you have sustained this injury, your eye is at risk.
  • If a minor burn occurs as a result of fireworks, remove clothing, and avoid ice. If you have access to water while waiting for an ambulance, run cool (not cold) water over the burn.

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Happy Fourth of July, and I hope you feel that way at day’s end.

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