Happy July Fourth, everybody!
We all know fireworks can be a lot of fun, but they can also be really dangerous (like really, really dangerous).
In 2016, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC), four people died as the result of fireworks-related injuries in the U.S., and around 11,100 people were injured.
Luckily, the USCPSC has a number of helpful resources on their website for avoiding injury, as well videos demonstrating how to safely use fireworks. They even have a PSA from New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a star football player who lost his right index finger to a fireworks accident in 2015.
Here are six easy steps you can take to greatly reduce your chance of injury, while still being able to have fireworks fun this summer.
1. Never let children light fireworks and have them keep a safe distance from any explosives.
Children under the age of 15 made up 31% of all fireworks-related injuries in 2016. Even sparklers can be dangerous, burning at around 2,000 degrees!
All GIFs from USCPSC/YouTube.
2. Never try to re-light fireworks that didn't go off.
Sometimes a dud isn't actually a dud. Even if it was just a case of the fuse fizzling out before it reached the end, there's a reason it's as long as it is to begin with: to give you enough time to get a safe distance away. Lighting a short fuse is a bad idea. Douse the firework with water and move on.
3. Don't point fireworks at other people, and make sure there's nothing in their flight path before igniting the fuse.
Roman candles, bottle rockets, and other smaller explosives are no exception. These can all cause some pretty significant injuries.
4. Keep a hose and a bucket of water nearby, and be sure to douse all spent fireworks in water after they're done burning.
After your fireworks are spent, hit them with a quick blast of water to neutralize any residual explosive powder. And since you're working with fire anyway, the hose and bucket are good to have on hand in case something goes wrong.
5. Don't set off fireworks in metal or glass containers.
If flying shards of glass and metal shrapnel aren't welcome editions to your Fourth of July festivities, it's probably best not to use empty bottles or metal containers as makeshift launchpads.
6. Most importantly, leave the professional fireworks to the professionals.
Following the guidelines in the five tips above will ensure safety for you and your family while lighting bottle rockets, sparklers, Roman candles, smoke bombs, and firecrackers. When it comes to the bigger shows and sky-high fireworks, however, the absolute best thing you can do is to leave it up to the pros.
Pack some snacks, a blanket or a few lawn chairs, and check out your local news or government website to find out where the nearest fireworks display is happening.
Because, to paraphrase "The Simpsons," what better way to celebrate the independence of your nation than to blow up a small part of it?
Check out this 2017 video from the USCPSC for more useful tips about fireworks safety. (Additional videos from 2015 and 2016 can be found on the organization's YouTube page.)