Fireworks maim, and even kill, American adults and children every year. As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the safety issues that surround fireworks usage. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides some sobering statistics:
- "In 2006, fireworks caused an estimated 32,600 reported fires, including 1,700 total structure fires, 600 vehicle fires, and 30,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated 6 civilian deaths, 70 civilian injuries and $34 million in direct property damage.
- In 2007, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,800 people for fireworks related injuries; 56% of 2007 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 36% were to the head.
- The risk of fireworks injury was two-and-a-half times as high for children ages 5-9 or 10-14 as for the general population.
- On Independence Day in a typical year, more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for half of those fires, more than any other cause of fires."
However, a great many of these injuries can be prevented by following some common-sense safety guidelines such as those laid out by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
- "Do not allow young children to play with fireworks under any circumstances. Sparklers, considered by many the ideal "safe" firework for the young, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing. Children cannot understand the danger involved and cannot act appropriately in case of emergency.
- Older children should only be permitted to use fireworks under close adult supervision. Do not allow any running or horseplay
- Light fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from houses, dry leaves or grass and flammable materials.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that don’t go off.
- Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
- Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
- Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
- Store fireworks in a dry, cool place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
- Observe local laws.
- Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
- Don’t experiment with homemade fireworks."
Additionally, families should consider attending a professional local fireworks display (when possible) rather than purchasing their own consumer fireworks. Please have a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend!
Additional Resources and prior postings from the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog: