McAlester Army Ammunition Plant
For many Americans, fireworks are a summer tradition. Fourth of July celebrations seem incomplete without the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. Sadly, some of these celebrations will end with another, less enjoyable tradition — a trip to the emergency room. By taking the proper precautions before handling fireworks, you can help ensure your personal tribute to Independence Day is a blast.
It may surprise some to learn the only difference between military explosives and fireworks is the amount of explosives filler. In the explosives community, we handle ammunition and explosives using the cardinal principle: Expose the fewest people to the smallest amount of explosives for the shortest time possible. It’s also a great rule for handling fireworks.
Before even thinking about lighting your first fuse, make sure 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.
Once you’ve established that you can legally shoot fireworks in your city, make sure you buy legal fireworks. Fireworks are classified as a hazardous material and will always have a label with the manufacturer’s name and directions for use. Illegal fireworks such as M-80s, M-100s and blockbusters usually aren’t labeled and don’t have directions. Even though banned since 1966, illegal fireworks are responsible for one-third of all Fourth of July injuries. If you know of anyone selling illegal fireworks, contact your local police department.
Unfortunately, even legal fireworks that are considered a safe choice for younger children, such as sparklers, can be dangerous. Sparklers can reach 1,800 F — hot enough to melt gold — and account for more than half the fireworks injuries to children under the age of 14. If children aren’t mature enough to understand the rules regarding fireworks, they shouldn’t handle them. Also, if your pets are afraid of noise or get excited and stressed easily, consider keeping them indoors or in pet crates until the fireworks celebration is over.
If someone gets hurt using fireworks, immediately go to your family doctor or a hospital. If the injury involves the eyes, do not rub or touch them. You should also never attempt to flush the eyes because some fireworks material can be activated by water. Eye injuries from fireworks are a no-wait medical decision.
Fireworks are meant to be enjoyed and help celebrate an important event in American history. If used properly, they can be safe for everyone. Teach your children the right way to handle fireworks and they’ll pass it on to their children. The last place anyone wants to celebrate America’s independence is a hospital waiting room.
If consumer fireworks are legal to buy where you live and you choose to use them, be sure to follow the following safety tips from the National Safety Council:
- Never allow young children to handle fireworks
- Older children should use them only under close adult supervision
- Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear
- Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands
- Never light them indoors
- Only use them away from people, houses and flammable material
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person
- Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting
- Never ignite devices in a container
- Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
- Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
- Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don't go off or in case of fire
- Never use illegal fireworks
For more information about fireworks safety, visit the National Safety Council website at https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/summer/fireworks.