Fire/Rescue Groups Address Fireworks for a Safer Fourth

Fire/rescue organizations are coming out in force in the run-up to this year's Fourth of July celebrations to remind rescuers and revelers alike about the dangers of fireworks.

"Each year, nearly 10,000 people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries and many of these injuries go hand-in-hand with Fourth of July celebrations," said NFPA president James M. Shannon in a prepared statement. "...it is unacceptable that thousands of people are being injured by a product that is legal in most states. We suggest attending public fireworks displays put on by trained professionals."

According to the NFPA, 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.

NFPA is the coordinator and co-founder of the Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks, a national group of health and safety organizations that have joined together to take a stand against the use of consumer fireworks. Video PSAs, audio interviews, statistics, safety tips and materials are available at www.nfpa.org/fireworks.

Only five states have banned all consumer fireworks: Massachusetts, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker of the National Transportation Safety Board also prompted Americans to keep safety in mind when celebrating this weekend. "Everyone enjoys celebrating Independence Day - and it is important to do so," he said. "The NTSB would simply like to remind Americans to take some time to think about the safety of themselves as well as others while enjoying the festivities."

The Coast Guard Auxiliary released a statement asking the public to be more aware of their surroundings, including watching the weather, celebrating responsibly and understanding the hazards of boating under the influence of alcohol and misusing flares as fireworks.

The U.S. Fire Administration also released a list of tips regarding consumer fireworks to be shared with communities.

"Fireworks account for a large number of preventable fires and injuries," said USFA Acting Administrator Glenn Gaines in a prepared statement. "Firefighters everywhere know too well the Fourth of July is a dangerous time for unnecessary fires and serious burns and injuries."

Their tips are:

  • Observe local laws.
  • Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction or fire.
  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
  • Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks. 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.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks. Never shoot a firework at or near another person.
  • Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
  • Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
  • Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
  • Don't experiment with homemade fireworks.

Finally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has estimated fireworks-related injuries from their National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Highlights of the report are as follows:

  • CPSC staff has reports of 7 fireworks-related deaths during 2008. Two people were killed in incidents involving aerial and display fireworks. One person died in a fire where a firework was the ignition source. Three people were killed in incidents involving homemade fireworks. One person, on oxygen, suffered serious burns when a firecracker exploded near his face. He died 18 days later in the hospital. CPSC staff has reports of 11 fireworks-related deaths in 2007.
  • Fireworks were involved in an estimated 7,000 injuries treated in U. S. hospital emergency departments during calendar year 2008 (95 percent confidence interval 5,200 -- 9,000). CPSC staff estimated that there were 9,800 fireworks-related injuries during 2007.
  • An estimated 5,000 fireworks-related injuries (or 70 percent of the total fireworks-related injuries) were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during the one-month special study period between June 20, 2008 and July 20, 2008 (95 percent confidence interval 3,400 -- 6,500). CPSC staff estimated that there were 6,300 fireworks-related injuries (66 percent of the annual total) during the 2007 special study period.
  • Injuries to children were a major component of total fireworks-related injuries with children under 15 accounting for 40 percent of the estimated injuries. Children and young adults under 20 had 58 percent of the estimated injuries.
  • There were an estimated 900 injuries associated with firecrackers. Of these, 500 were associated with small firecrackers, 100 with illegal firecrackers, and 300 where the type of firecracker was not specified. There were an estimated 800 injuries associated with sparklers and 300 with bottle rockets.
  • The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (estimated 1,400 injuries), eyes (1,000 injuries), and legs (900 injuries).

To view the entire CPSC 2008 Fireworks Annual Report, visit: http://www.cpsc.gov/library/2008fwreport.pdf

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