U.S. ARMY TECHNICAL CENTER FOR EXPLOSIVES SAFETY
Fireworks are a Fourth of July tradition. To celebrate our nation’s independence, many Americans will gather at professional fireworks events while others will choose to hold a personal pyrotechnics extravaganza in their own backyard. When done right, fireworks create spectacular displays of colored light against the night sky. But before lighting the first fuse on that bottle rocket or Roman candle, ensure you know the guidelines for the safe and responsible use of fireworks.
Have you ever wondered what makes those pretty colors when a skyrocket explodes? There are a lot of different chemicals used, but some of the most common are aluminum (produces silver and white flames and sparks), barium (green), copper (blue), lithium (red) and sodium (gold or yellow). In the air, these chemicals help create an eye-catching display. On the ground, however, they’re nothing more than explosives and pyrotechnic materials.
Fireworks are classified as dangerous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. In fact, consumer fireworks are generally considered more hazardous than our military explosives. In the military, we spend considerable resources throughout the life cycle of ammunition and explosives to ensure they’re safe and reliable. While the safety of fireworks continues to improve, many manufacturers’ standards do not achieve this same level of safety, quality and reliability.
Take firecrackers, for example. Many people have probably lit 1½-inch firecrackers. Were all the fuses the same length? Did they burn at the same rate? Did they sometimes fizzle out, leaving an even shorter fuse intact? In commercial firework demonstrations, have you seen low bursts or even ground bursts?
Safety is very important, whether it’s a big show or backyard use of fireworks with family and friends. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates about 11,400 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks in 2013. No one wants their fun to be spoiled by an accident or injury, so, whether you’re using commercial or consumer fireworks, the rules on their safe use should always be followed.
Current requirements for large public or commercial fireworks displays can be found in Department of the Army Pamphlet 385-62 (paragraph 2-13) and National Fire Protection Agency Document 1123, Code for Fireworks Displays. For personal use of fireworks, some generally accepted safety rules include:
• Read and follow the instructions on how to use the item.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fires.
• Maintain adult supervision.
• Have a designated shooter.
• Do not drink while initiating fireworks.
• Use eye protection when shooting fireworks and do not let any part of your body cover the fireworks.
• Fireworks should only be used outdoors.
• Never throw or point fireworks at another person.
• Do not handle or try and relight duds. Wait 20-30 minutes, soak the duds in water and then properly dispose of them.
Fireworks can liven up any Independence Day celebration, but they should always be treated with respect. Remember to use good common sense and follow all safety rules so you, your family members and friends don’t become a fireworks statistic.
Did You Know?
Sparklers can reach temperatures up to 1,800 F. According to the National Council on Fireworks Safety (www.fireworksafety.com), more than half the sparkler-related injuries happen to children under the age of 14. If sparklers are a part of your child’s celebration, ensure they only handle the unlit end. Also, remind them to keep sparklers away from their face, clothing and hair.
Before spending a fortune on your personal celebration to independence, ensure fireworks are legal to possess and use in your city and state. The National Council on Fireworks Safety’s website is a good source of information on state fireworks laws. You should also always ask your local fire or police department if fireworks are legal in your area. Although fireworks may be legal in your state, there may be reasons, such as a burn ban due to dry weather, why their use is prohibited in some areas. For more information, visit www.fireworkssafety.org