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Fireworks Fun & Safety

FireworksFireworks are synonymous with the Fourth of July. Millions of Americans enjoy professional fireworks displays on Independence Day. But in addition to their community's display, some families set off their own fireworks. Amid the festivities shared by friends and family, don't overlook safety. If backyard fireworks are part of your family tradition, plan ahead and use common sense to keep the celebration fun and safe.

Fireworks products

State or local laws may prohibit or limit the purchase or use of consumer fireworks, so be aware of what is legal in your community. The consumer fireworks classification include shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, roman candles, rockets, sparklers and firecrackers with no more than 50 milligrams of powder. They also include novelty items such as snakes, ground spinners, helicopters, fountains and party poppers.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety recommends that consumer fireworks be purchased only from a licensed store. Products regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have brightly colored packages, safety warnings and the country of origin. Usually it's China.

CPSC warns against buying firework devices from an individual at his/her house or car, because they are likely to be illegal explosives. They are usually un-packaged and wrapped with plain brown paper. CPSC reports many of these fireworks are handmade in unsafe environments. Alert local law enforcement authorities to the sale of potentially illegal explosives.

And never concoct a homemade recipe for a firework device.

Safety statistics

The safety trend for fireworks and sparklers is increasingly positive. In 1976, CPSC established federal standards for consumer fireworks and sparklers. Since then, the injury rate has dropped by 88 percent. The National Council of Fireworks Safety attributes the improvement to increased safety education and improving quality of legal consumer fireworks and sparklers.

Even so, CPSC estimates about 9,800 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries in 2007. More than half the injuries were burns. Most of the injuries involved the hands, eyes and legs. Children aged 10 to 14 had the highest injury rate of all age groups. While they bring enjoyment to the young and young-at-heart, fireworks are not toys.

Using fireworks safely

Don't let the fun of Independence Day picnics and parades be overshadowed with a trip to the emergency room. Handle fireworks with care.

Prior to using the fireworks, store them according to the directions. Carefully read the label of each firework to understand exactly what it will do. Never alter or combine the devices, or ignite them inside a glass or metal container.

Designate who is responsible for discharging the fireworks. Adults are best. If parents determine older children are capable, closely supervise them. Younger children should never play with fireworks. Because of the dangers, horseplay and running around should not be tolerated.

Wear safety glasses and keep as far away as possible when lighting the fireworks. Never consume alcohol when working with fireworks.

For the best "oohs" and "ahhs", keep fireworks observers a safe distance from the discharge area.
The National Fire Protection Association reports fireworks caused about 32,600 fires in 2006, causing six deaths, 70 injuries and $34 million in direct property damage. Set off fireworks in a flat, clear area away from houses, dry leaves or grass, and flammable materials. Also keep unused fireworks away from areas where they could inadvertently be ignited.

Have a hose or bucket of water nearby for emergencies. Never relight or handle malfunctioning devices. Instead, douse and soak them in water before disposing of them.

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