Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Know What's Legal; Don't Get Complacent
The July 4th holiday is a time when Americans celebrate generations of independence with family gatherings, community events and casual use of dangerous explosives.
"From a safety perspective, it doesn't make sense to celebrate anything by allowing our children to play with burning sticks that can reach 2,000 degrees," says Deputy State Fire Marshal Becki White. "Nor should we transport in our vehicles dangerous amounts of explosives along with the groceries and the kids. But we do these things every year. And every year someone suffers for it."
The Consumer Products Safety Commission reported seven fireworks-related deaths in 2008, along with 7,000 injuries treated in hospitals. Children under 15 accounted for 40 percent of those injuries. In Minnesota, fireworks use resulted in 64 hospital-treated injuries and more than $130,000 in property loss. Those numbers reflect a downward trend since the 111 injuries in 2004.
Minnesota law forbids use of fireworks that explode or leave the ground. Sparklers, snakes, fountains and other non-airborne items are legal but still require caution and close supervision. Transporting fireworks requires attention, as well.
"There are people who buy fireworks, both legal and illegal, and toss them in the car as if they were safe. Then they drive to their destination using smoking materials in the same car," White points out.
Complacency, she says, is our enemy this time of year. While fireworks are familiar to us, consumers must not forget that they're dangerous.
White recommends following these tips:
¥ Set a good example for your children by using fireworks that are legal in Minnesota.
¥ Never allow young children to ignite or play with fireworks.
¥ Dress appropriately. Shoes are essential. Avoid loose clothing and hats.
¥ Light one item at a time, and never in an enclosed container.
¥ Never attempt to relight a device that doesn't ignite properly the first time.
¥ Keep a bucket of water handy to cool sparkler wires immediately and extinguish other fireworks completely.
¥ Avoid areas with dry grass, brush or debris; flying sparks can ignite these materials.
¥ If you must transport fireworks, carry them in the trunk or rear area of the vehicle;
¥ Don't allow children access, as they may remove protective wrappings.
¥ Never, ever allow smoking in the area where fireworks are stored or being used.
"We're doing better," White says. "Our injury rates are slowly going down in Minnesota, but the only acceptable number is zero. Please don't let complacency make you careless."
For more facts on safe use of fireworks, go to www.fire.state.mn.us, and select "Fireworks Information."