Fireworks Safety

Approximately 9,300 people are seriously injured because of fireworks each year in our country – and children under the age of 14 incur nearly half of these injuries.

Indeed, if they’re not handled properly, fireworks can cause burns, as well as hand, foot and eye injuries in both children and adults. Bottle rockets are the leading cause of fireworks-related fires. And sparklers burn at over 1,200 degrees; they are one of the main fireworks that cause injuries.

The best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home – attend public fireworks displays, and leave the lighting to the professionals.

But, if you plan on using fireworks at home, adult supervision is critical. Only adults should light fireworks and handle matches and lighters. Also, it’s crucial that you talk with your children about firework safety ahead of time.

Prevention Tips – Keeping Everyone Safe

We have entered peak fireworks season with the celebration of July 4th right around the corner. This is a great holiday, with lots of food, fun and family activities. And fireworks are a terrific way to enhance this summer ritual. But safety comes first.

We urge you to review the fairly exhaustive list of fireworks precautions that follows. That way, your holiday will be a blast – in the very best sense of the word!

  • Buy only legal fireworks. Legal fireworks have a label with the manufacturer’s name and instructions; illegal ones are unlabeled.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix; have a “designated lighter.”
  • Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of accidents. Soak used fireworks and used sparklers in water.
  • Only allow persons over the age of 12 to handle sparklers of any type.
  • Never allow young children to play with or light fireworks. Closely supervise children and teens around fireworks.
  • Have spectators stand to one side of the display, keeping a safe distance from the person doing the lighting.
  • Never use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives – they can be deadly. Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department in your community.
  • Light one firework at a time on a smooth, flat surface away from materials that burn. Wear safety glasses and move away quickly after lighting each one.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up a “dud” – a firework that has not fully functioned.
  • Never point or throw a firework at another person, hold a lit firework in your hand, or light fireworks in glass, metal or plastic containers.
  • Don’t allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event; some may still be burning and can explode at any time.
  • Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed during fireworks celebrations. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they’ll run loose or get injured.

If a Fireworks Injury Happens

If fireworks injure a child, immediately go to a doctor or hospital. If an eye injury occurs, don’t allow your child to touch or rub it, because this may cause even more damage. Don’t flush the eye out with water or attempt to put any ointment on it. Instead, cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and immediately seek medical attention — your child’s eyesight may depend on it.

If it’s a burn, remove clothing from the burned area (unless it’s stuck to the skin) and run cool – not cold – water over the burn (do not use ice).

Selected National Statistics on Fireworks Safety

  • The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to more 50,000 fires caused by fireworks each year.
  • About 40 percent of all fireworks-related injuries are due to illegal fireworks that have been banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Every year about 400 Americans lose sight in one or both eyes due to fireworks.
  • Approximately four people will die this year in the U.S from fireworks.
  • Children between the ages of five and nine have the highest rate of fireworks-related injuries

Selected Points from the Washington State Fireworks Safety Law

  • Sale of fireworks is prohibited to persons under the age of 16 years.
  • At least one adult (18 years or older) shall be present at all times that a fireworks stand is open.
  • Only “State Legal” fireworks, purchased from a State licensed fireworks wholesaler, may be sold in retail fireworks stands.
  • Fireworks stands cannot be located in a structure used for any other purpose.

 Quote From Fireworks Safety Expert – Beth E. Ebel, MD, MSc, MPH

  • “I love the Fourth of July, and I’m all for fun and tradition, but parents need to be well aware of the risks that lighting fireworks presents to their children. Supervision is a definite necessity here, but it’s really not enough to insure safety. In the end, it’s probably best to watch fireworks, rather than use them.”

Fireworks Safety Expert Available for Media Interviews

Beth E. Ebel, MD, MSc, MPH – Dr. Beth Ebel is a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, a multidisciplinary research institute encompassing the fields of pediatrics, surgery, biostatistics, epidemiology, psychiatry, trauma care and social work, nursing, and health economics. The goal of the Injury Center is to develop, apply, and evaluate current and new interventions and strategies to decrease the morbidity and mortality due to injuries. Ebel’s research interests include injury prevention, community interventions and health behaviors, with emphasis on high-risk populations. She is the principal investigator in recent studies of the Seattle campaign to encourage booster-seat use for young passengers, and in a multisite community intervention to improve child passenger safety in Latino communities. Ebel is also the principal investigator for several studies measuring the healthcare costs of unrestrained motor vehicle occupants; a grant to quantitatively measure and improve interpreted care for limited English proficiency children and families; and a Fogarty grant to improve trauma care in developing countries.

If you’d like to arrange an interview with Dr. Beth Ebel, please contact the Children’s PR team at 206-987-4500 or at [email protected].