The American tradition of parades, cookouts and fireworks helps us celebrate our nation's birthday on the Fourth of July. However, a joyful holiday can turn into a painful memory when children or adults are injured while using fireworks. Although some fireworks are relatively safe with proper and careful use, others are illegal and present substantial risks that can result in damage to property and, more importantly, cause ear and eye injuries, amputations, severe burns and death. In fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), firecrackers experienced at close range can damage hearing permanently in an instant. The Division of Fire Marshal (DFM), Office of Research Services (ORS), urges everyone to put safety first when celebrating this Fourth of July. When using fireworks, things can go wrong very fast. Children, especially, can be injured quickly. Kids typically not only like to watch, but they also want to touch, feel and light the fireworks. Rather than incurring any risks, the DFM urges you to celebrate and enjoy the holiday without lighting your own fireworks. Instead, attend one of the many public fireworks displays provided throughout the area. At these displays, certified and licensed pyrotechnicians are trained and experienced in the safe use of fireworks and will provide a safe, yet exciting show. The following tips should help make a public fireworks display safer and more enjoyable:
- Stay far away from where the fireworks are exploding and wear earplugs if the noises are uncomfortably loud.
- Obey all monitors and ushers and respect the safety barriers established that allow the trained pyrotechnicians room to safely do their job. Resist any temptation to get close to the actual firing site. In fact, the best view of fireworks is from a quarter mile or more away.
- If unexploded fireworks fall to the ground, do not touch them and keep others away. If you happen to find any pieces which may not have exploded, immediately contact the local fire or police department.
- Pets, like their human companions, have very sensitive ears and the "booms" and "bangs" associated with fireworks displays can be quite uncomfortable - particularly to dogs. In fact, these loud noises can damage their ears too. Leave pets at home if you attend a fireworks show.
- Leave the lighting of all fireworks to certified operators. Even sparklers and other novelty items that are legal in certain jurisdictions can be dangerous. Enjoy the "Fourth" safely and attend a public display — it will provide the right kind of excitement!
If you have questions concerning fireworks safety, please contact the Division of the Fire Marshal, Office of Research Services at 301-496-0487. For hearing concerns, contact the NIDCD Office of Health Communication and Public Liaison at 301-496-7243.