by Laura Brooks Bright
Southern summers are made on lightening bugs and patriotic holidays – from Memorial Day to Independence Day to Labor Day – Americans, and southerners in particular, have perfected the art of celebration. As roadside fireworks stands pop-up and visions of tying bottle rockets together emerge – it’s important to educate children and adults on what’s in and what’s out for fireworks safety and etiquette.
I recall a summer evening at the lake as a child, my older brother and I were acting like general misfits– we were still in grade school, but old enough to know better. We pulled out a sacred box of bottlerockets, roman candles, sparklers and cherry bombs that were safely stored in the basement and dragged it onto the deck. After an accidental drop of the “light stick” into the box, we set off a rapid fire explosion of such color, noise and wonderment – you’d of thought it WAS the 4th of July. Thanks to good timing, a lot of luck and a thick glass door within arms reach, the two of us quickly retreated behind a closed door and escaped serious danger. The result of our mishap was not only the loss of our sacred box for the rest of the season, but a permanent fearof the danger of fireworks.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 11,400 fireworks-related injuries happened in 2013. Of these, 65 percent occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4th. Last year, children younger than the age of 5 experienced a higher injury rate than other age groups.
The safest way to watch fireworks is at a professional show. When viewing a fireworks display, respect the safety barriers and select a safe viewing distance of at least 500 feet away.
If you or someone you know is planning a fireworks show of their own, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area
- Children should not be allowed to play with fireworks
- Watch children closely when setting off fireworks
- Only adults should light fireworks
- Keep an extinguisher, hose or bucket of water nearby
- Do not light fireworks inside or near dry vegetation
- Do not pick up a firework that has not gone off, or try to relight it – douse it with water and dispose of it
- Read the directions on fireworks before setting them off
- Stand several feet away from lit fireworks
- Do not light more than one firework at a time
- Do not wear loose-fitting clothing when lighting fireworks
For more information about fireworks safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association website at www.nfpa.org.