Tuesday is the Fourth of July, the annual holiday celebrating America’s independence.
As always, the holiday is marked with parades, cookouts and of course, endless amounts of fireworks. From large-scale shows to setting off fireworks in your backyard, there are plenty of safety measures that should be taken when handling any explosives.
Fireworks and sparkler accidents lead to thousands of hospital trips each year and can be fatal. Last year, an 11-year-old Indiana child and an 18-year-old Minnesota man were among those who died in Fourth of July fireworks incidents.
Here’s what you should consider before lighting fireworks of any shape and size around this Independence Day.
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How many people died or were injured by fireworks in 2022?
Over 10,000 people were treated in emergency rooms and 11 people died from fireworks-related injuries last year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2022 Fireworks Annual Report.
Firecrackers accounted for the highest number of injures last year, with 1,300 people injured. Sparklers were also a cause, with 600 injuries in 2022. And it wasn’t all on July 4, either: 73% of injuries occurred in the weeks before or after the Fourth of July.
Of the injuries, 38% were burns, with the hands and fingers among the most injured body parts, per the report.
How to safely use and light fireworks
In anticipation of the thousands of fireworks that will be lit on and around the Fourth of July, a number of safety groups and government agencies, including the National Fire Protection Association, Department of Homeland Security and the National Safety Council have all released guidance for the best safety practices.
Here’s what the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends you do for fireworks safety:
- Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never use fireworks while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
In addition to following your state and local laws around fireworks, here’s what else the Department of Homeland Security recommends:
- Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding.
- Never place a part of your body directly over a firework or hold a firework in your hand when lighting.
- Only light one firework at a time.
Are sparklers dangerous? Be careful with the handheld item
Sparklers are a common alternative or addition to fireworks around the holiday, and are commonly used by children. Like fireworks, they can become very hot when lit – between 1,800-3000 degrees Fahrenheit – and can cause burns or other injuries.
The American Pyrotechnics Association recommends to never light or hold more than one sparkler at a time, and to keep them at an arm’s length away from the body.
The association also recommends adults to closely supervise children under 12 using sparklers.
The National Safety Council recommends using safer alternatives to sparklers, including glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.
What to do if your pet is afraid of fireworks
Fireworks can also be extremely stressful for pets, but the Department of Homeland Security recommends a few ways to help reduce their fear and anxiety.
Keep pets indoors, while fireworks are going off, and close the curtains or blinds. Turn on the TV or radio as a distraction, and give them toys and treats filled with their favorite food.