It’s soon to be July the 4th, and that means the sky will be lit up with fireworks again. How can you ensure your enjoyment of the big day without risking injury or worse?
Everyone loves the excitement of fireworks at events which traditionally require an explosive celebration, and 4th of July is the big one. However, many of us are worried about fireworks though – and with good reason – but they are perfectly safe to use as long as you observe certain safety protocols. They’re mostly common sense, but it’s worth taking a few minutes to remember the safety rules to prevent tragedy marring the coming holiday.
Protecting the Kids
Of course children need to be supervised at all times. It’s a good idea to make this less of a “looking over their shoulder” process and more of an inclusive event. Include them in your fire safety precautions, and explain everything to them as you go. Let them handle the fireworks and go through how they work and what they do, and explain the dangers. Don’t be unnecessarily scary, but don’t shrink away from the fact that fireworks must be treated with respect because they can be fatal.
Even sparklers need a moderate amount of safe handling as they remain hot after use and should be doused in a pail of water as soon as they’re done. But let the kids take care of this themselves. Make them want to prove they are grown up enough to be involved. If they feel included in what goes on, they will learn more and feel less inclined to experiment on their own.
Keep your Distance
Young people – and indeed everyone who’s not actually lighting any fireworks – should watch and enjoy the display at a safe distance and follow the safety rules. Of course only adults should deal with firework displays and the lighting of fireworks and the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used.
Planning is everything, both to make it look good and to make it also safe as well as enjoyable. Set your display up as far away as you can from the spectators. At the point of firing, direct the angle of any rocket in the opposite direction from spectators. They are going to go high up in the sky so they will be visible, and apart from anything else you don’t want them craning their necks back to see the display. Make it happen in front of them in the sky.
Handling and Firing
You should keep fireworks in a closed box (metal if you have it) and take them out and use them one at a time. Obviously if the display is a semi-professional one then you will have safety people and experts on hand, but for small domestic displays, keep all fireworks not about to be lit safely in their box. This prevents stray sparks setting off your display prematurely and out of your control.
Make sure you read and follow the instructions on each firework before you use it. Lighting the wrong part of the fireworks can cause them to misfire and cause injury. Sometimes the fuse is taped to the side of the cardboard body and it needs to be detached before use, so make sure you are aware of this before you go lighting anything. Read them just before you light them, but do so using a flashlight, not a by the light of a match or lighter! It’s so obvious, but it does happen still with depressing regularity. Keep all naked flames including cigarettes far away from fireworks and the box they are in.
Light fireworks with a smoldering incense stick rather than a flaming torch or a lighter. Light at arm’s length and walk quickly away. There’s usually a three or four second delay on the fuse giving you more than enough time to get off the launch pad. If you get a misfire, or something doesn’t go off as expected, don’t go back to it immediately to see what’s happened. Sometimes a firework can seem to be a dud, but it’s smoldering inside and will blow just as soon as you get near to it. Make sure you have another launch pad set up in another part of the garden and switch to that for a while, returning to the dead firework only after many minutes have passed.
Never put fireworks in your pockets, even for a moment, as you might forget them and stand too close to a fire pit or bonfire and ignite them close to your body.
Never be tempted to throw fireworks. Apart from anything else, the three second fuse is not an exact science, and sometimes fireworks go off almost immediately. A horrible 46% of all fireworks injuries are to hands, from severe damage to complete loss, usually from people handling lit fireworks and trying to toss them before they go off.
Clean up and Clear
In setting up or breaking down a firework event, you should take care when starting or extinguishing fires. Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire to get it going, and make sure it’s out before you leave. If there were any dud fireworks, leave them for at least 10-15 mins and drop them into a pail of water. Make sure all unused fireworks stay in their box until they can be used.
If you have any unused fireworks, you can store them for a while quite safely in the metal box; black powder is quite stable and won’t catch fire unless provoked by flames or sparks. If the fireworks are quite new, say a year old, they should be fine, so you can just do an impromptu display in your garden to use them up. If they are old or damp and you are unsure about their safety you could also take them to your local fire station to have them disposed of professionally.
- Fireworks Injuries (infographic)