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ASSE: Celebrate the Fourth Safely Not in an Emergency Room

As the Fourth of July approaches, the members of the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) Fire Protection Branch are urging fellow members, their families and the public to be aware of ways to enjoy consumer fireworks safely and of the federal and state laws involving the use of fireworks.

"We have a lot to be thankful for this July Fourth," ASSE President Jack Dobson, Jr., CSP, said. "If we are aware of and follow firework safety guidelines, everyone can enjoy a safe and happy holiday instead of spending it in the emergency room."

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), five states ban the use of fireworks by consumers Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island while the other 45 states and the District of Columbia permit some or all consumer fireworks. In many states, people must apply for a municipal fireworks display permit, usually from the fire department, if planning a supervised public fireworks display.

In addition to the local permit, there is a federal requirement for a public fireworks display. Effective May 24, 2003, a permit is required from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) to contract for, purchase or receive display fireworks.

In many states, such as California, illegal fireworks are described as those that explode, rise in the air or move about the ground or any fireworks not approved and labeled "Safe and Sane" by the state fire marshal. These can include, such as in California, skyrockets, bottle rockets, roman candles, sky rockets/mortars and cherry bombs.

Children Face Highest Risk

Each year in the United States, more than 10,000 people are treated at hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries, with burns as the leading type of injury. Contusions and lacerations are second. Many suffer eye injuries.

According to NFPA, children age 5 to 9 face the highest risk of fireworks injuries. Sparklers, which can reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees, are responsible for most injuries involving children under the age of 5.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) recent analysis of data on fireworks-related deaths and injuries in 2005 in the United States, more than twice as many males were injured as females, while children and young adults under 20 had 55 percent of the estimated injuries.

There were a total of 10,800 fireworks-related injuries in 2005.

According to CPSC:

  • Firecrackers were associated with the greatest number of estimated injuries with 1,700;
  • Rockets and sparklers were associated with 1,100 injuries each; Hands, eyes, the head, face and ear were injured the most;
  • More than half of the injuries were burns; and
  • Of those patients treated at emergency rooms, 5 percent were treated and transferred to another hospital for treatment, admitted or held for observation.

Enjoy Fireworks at a Public Display

The ASSE Fire Safety Branch recommends that people enjoy fireworks at a Fourth of July public fireworks display. Many communities provide additional amenities such as concerts and children's activities to enjoy along with the fireworks display. Check with your local fire department or town hall for the fireworks display nearest you.

If using consumer "safe and sane" fireworks, ASSE recommends that you:

  1. Always have an adult present.
  2. Only buy from reliable fireworks sellers.
  3. Only ignite fireworks outdoors.
  4. Have water available, i.e., in a bucket or hose.
  5. Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks.
  6. Light only one at a time.
  7. Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks.
  8. Never give fireworks to children.
  9. Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  10. Dispose of fireworks properly.
  11. Never throw fireworks at another person.
  12. Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  13. Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
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