Though traditional Fourth of July celebrations and activities will look a bit different this year, we expect that fireworks displays will continue in one way or another now and into the coming weeks. Yet, the thrill of fireworks can also bring danger. On average, 180 people go to the emergency rooms every day in the United States in the month around the Fourth of July with fireworks-related injuries. Most injuries involve the face, eyes and hands, with more than 50 percent of these injuries being severe burns.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. But, as local cities and towns have cancelled this year’s events due to COVID-19, we suspect an increase in fireworks displays being set from peoples’ backyards. Let’s talk safety.
If you do choose to light fireworks at home, please follow these safety tips:
- Obey all local laws regarding the use or prohibition of fireworks.
- Know your fireworks, and read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before.
- A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to teenagers or younger children. Sparklers and bottle rockets are also dangerous. Sparklers burn at 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals, and account for more than 25 percent of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
- Wear safety glasses and other protection when shooting fireworks, and make sure everyone keeps a safe distance. Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by anything over 85 decibels, such as sudden loud sounds like the bang of a gun or fireworks. Fireworks register well above safe levels at 140 decibels.
- Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
- Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles. Do not ignite fireworks in a metal or glass container.
- Do not set off fireworks in a dry field or grassy area that are prone to brushfires. Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby, in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day to prevent a fire.
- Don’t forget your pet, who has sensitive ears and can be very frightened or stressed. Keep pets indoors during public fireworks displays to avoid them running away when startled.
- If you decide to set off fireworks from your home, alert your neighbors in advance so that they can prepare their children and pets.
If this feels like an exhaustive safety list, setting off a fireworks display from your backyard may not be a great combination. We wish you a safe Independence Day with your loved ones, but in the event of an emergency please know that our emergency departments and urgent care clinics are open and ready to provide care safely during COVID-19. We’re here for you when you need us. Take care, stay safe, have fun!
Joanne Rheaume, DNP, RN, CEN, CPHQ is Nurse Manager, Urgent Care at UVM Medical Center’s Fanny Allen Campus.