Because only hours separate us from the festive celebrations that routinely accompany the Fourth of July holiday — whether at home or in organized neighborhood, church or community events — it is appropriate we offer a few mindful tips that might help to avoid an injury or prevent a 911 call to any of our area’s professional emergency services, whether fire, ambulance or law enforcement.
We credit much of this information to Phantom Fireworks, a private enterprise that distributes Phantom and Wolf Pack brand fireworks. Ours is not an endorsement of their products, but it is an acknowledgement — and a kudo — for the safety practices the corporation is heralding in pre-holiday literature surrounding Fourth of July celebrations and any events in which fireworks are used.
We received such a mailout from Phantom vice president William A. Weimer who spared no punches in his reminder to holiday celebrants and fireworks enthusiasts of this bottom line: “Use Common Sense.”
For just three words, the expression speaks in a great, and loud, volume. True, what is accepted as “common sense” to one, might be contradictory to the nature of thinking by another. But we’re talking about fireworks — explosive devices, not toys, that go “boom” in the night and which can spread more than just colorful majesty and breathtaking beauty.
With this said, let us consider six basic fireworks safety rules offered by Phantom. Each is a common sense practice unto itself, and — without even Googling — we would surmise all are recommendations made by most other manufacturers of these holiday amusements.
Cleveland and Bradley County area families preparing for a festive celebration tonight, Wednesday night and beyond should practice each of these tips:
1. Never allow children to handle fireworks. Only sober adults should handle and ignite the fireworks.
2. Use fireworks only in a clear, open space. Ignite fireworks from a hard, flat surface. Keep your audience a safe distance from the launch site and fallout zones.
3. Have a ready source of water close by and easily accessible. A connected water hose is best, but a bucket of water or fire extinguisher will suffice.
4. Do not attempt to relight duds. Unexploded fireworks can be unpredictable and dangerous.
5. Follow local laws regarding the use of fireworks. This is important because their use is illegal in some areas, such as within the city limits of some municipalities (including Cleveland); and in some geographic regions, even entire counties.
6. When igniting fireworks, use a long-neck butane lighter or similar device that provides an appreciative distance between the fuse and the hands that are lighting them.
Fireworks safety is a serious issue addressed by organizations like the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory, the American Pyrotechnics Association, the National Council on Fireworks Safety Inc. and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, among others.
In past years, their efforts have combined to produce better products, and smarter and safer American fireworks users. From 1994 to 2010, fireworks-related injuries dropped by more than 31 percent in this country alone, according to Phantom.
The numbers are encouraging.
But the pain is still just as real when accidents occur that lead to personal injury or property damage, whether a little or a lot.
Enjoy your Fourth of July holiday, but do it safely. And do it wisely.
Follow the rules.
And use common sense.