Firework Safety

Firework Safety

Firework Safety

By Dr. Sullivan Smith

Cookeville, Tenn.- What would the 4th of July be without fireworks?  Potentially less fun, but it that would make hospital emergency rooms a little less busy.  This is why Cookeville Regional Medical Center's emergency physicians urge those, who plan to celebrate the country's birthday, to play it smart when it comes to the potential dangers of fireworks.

"Even though they are very common, there's no such thing as a completely safe firework," said Dr. Sullivan Smith, CRMC Emergency Department Medical Director.  "A few minutes of well-intentioned fun can result in serious injuries or even lifelong disabilities." 

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), on average, about 200 people every day go to the ER with firework-related injuries around the 4th of July holiday. Most of those injuries involve burns.  For example, a sparkler can burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit — which is as hot as a blow torch. Even after that sparkler has burned out, the remaining wire can remain hot enough to burn for several minutes.

Almost half (46 percent) of fireworks injuries are to a person's hands or fingers. About one third (34 percent) of them are to a person's eyes, head, face and ears (CPSC).

If one chooses to use fireworks this year, there are a few common sense do's and don'ts that will help make it a safer experience.

Things to do:

  • Have knowledgeable supervision by an experienced adult if you choose to use fireworks.
  • Always wear eye protection and leather gloves.
  • Avoid clothing made of synthetic fabrics which usually ignite very quickly and tend to melt on to your skin.
  • Buy fireworks from reputable dealers.
  • Read warning labels and follow all instructions.
  • Keep a bucket of water, garden hose, or fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Light fireworks one at a time.
  • Make certain fireworks, such as mortars, are on a sturdy base and won't tip over.
  • Immediately back up to a safe distance as soon as the firework is lit.
  • Keep all spectators, especially small children, at a safe distance.
  • Dispose of all fireworks properly.

Don’t:

  • Give any fireworks, including sparklers, to small children; older children should be supervised by a responsible adult.
  • Light fireworks indoors or near flammable objects.
  • Place any part of your body over a fireworks device when trying to light the fuse.
  • Point or throw fireworks at another person, ever.
  • Handle malfunctioning fireworks.
  • Try to re-light or pick up fireworks have not ignited fully. Instead, douse them with water         until they are completely soaked.
  • Wear loose clothing while using any fireworks.
  • Set off fireworks in glass or metal containers — the fragments can cause severe injury.
  • Carry fireworks in a pocket.
  • And of course, never ever combine alcohol with fireworks. 

"The safest thing you can do is to watch a professional fireworks display managed by experts who have proper training and experience handling these explosives," said Dr. Smith.  "Have fun and enjoy this great American holiday. Stay safe. As always, we hope you won't need emergency care, but we'll be ready to treat you just in case you do."