The US Consumer Products Safety Commission is bad at stealing people’s stoves, but it’s great at blowing up mannequins. In advance of the Fourth of July, the CPSC today demonstrated some of the ways you can be injured or killed by fireworks on DC’s National Mall, using styrofoam dummies in place of humans. Carnage ensued. The presentation is meant to highlight the dangers of fireworks and encourage safe pyrotechnics this July Fourth.
According to the CPSC, 11 deaths from fireworks were reported in 2022 (mostly from “mortar-style devices”), and approximately 10,200 people suffered fireworks-related injuries that were serious enough to require an emergency room visit. Seventy-three percent of fireworks injuries happen during the month surrounding the July Fourth holiday.
Because both the CPSC and Lifehacker do not want you to blow off your fingers or your face this holiday weekend, below are some common sense firework safety tips.
The most surefire way to avoid injury or death from fireworks is to just not mess with them. I’m sure there’s more than one municipal fireworks display, presumably overseen by competent pyrotechnical professionals, planned for the holiday in your area.
“But I’m not satisfied with state-sponsored demonstrations of patriotism,” you may be saying.
“Fine,” I’d reply after sighing, “Here are some tips if you absolutely must light off your own explosives to celebrate America.”
Laws vary from state to state and municipality to municipality, but as a general rule: Do not use fireworks that were purchased illegally or are not meant for consumer use. The fireworks industry can be shady; about 43 percent of fireworks the CPSC tested were found to contain illegal, potential dangerous components like bad fuses, prohibited chemicals, and “pyrotechnic materials overload.” So don’t buy explosives from that guy who drives through the neighborhood in a dirty white van.
Kids are dumb and will do dumb things with fireworks, so don’t let kids near them. And don’t give them sparklers, either. Sparklers burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt some metals, and we just hand them out to children. It’s nuts.
Because your child may sneak off with their dumb friend Kevin to light off fireworks away from adult supervision, warn them about the dangers in advance of July Fourth, and I’m sure they’ll do the right thing.
On a personal note: If you’re 11 years-old, do not think it would be funny to wrap a hot dog bun around a firecracker and throw it to a seagull. It is not funny, and you will feel guilty for the seagull’s grim death for the rest of your life.
Spent fireworks can cause fires too, so douse them in water after they’re used. Even legal and harmless-seeming fireworks can cause brush or forest fires. In 2020, a gender-reveal smoke bomb set off the El Dorado Fire that burned over 20,000 acres of California, killed a firefighter, and led to 30 criminal charges, including manslaughter. You don’t want to ruin your life like that, so have a plan for dousing flame if you must use fireworks.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but if you ignite an explosive device, move away from it immediately, and don’t light several at once. Don’t look into the tube to see why the flaming ball didn’t shoot out of it. Don’t hold firecrackers in your hands. Don’t point fireworks at your friends. All of this should be common sense, but thousands of people are killed or injured by these kinds of mishaps every year.
There’s always some jackass who thinks a firework is a dud, picks it up, and loses some fingers. If a firework doesn’t go off, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, douse it in water, and dispose of it.
It’s not funny. You’re just being a jerk.
No one keeps tabs on how many fireworks injuries are connected with alcohol and drug use, but I’d guess a ton of them. Getting blitzed on the Fourth is an American tradition I fully support, but don’t play with potentially lethal explosives if you’re impaired.
You are not qualified to work with explosive chemicals.
Animals hate Independence Day, and not just because they’re communists. There are ways you can make July Fourth less traumatic for your fur-acquaintances. Check out How to Calm Your Dog When There are Fireworks Going Off for details.
Fireworks create ugly deaths. In its annual fireworks report, the CPSC details each of the 11 fatalities from fireworks in 2022, and it’s grisly reading. For instance, here’s the medical examiner’s report on the cause of death of an 18 year-old who was struck by a mortar:
“Multiple blastrelated injuries to the head and neck, decapitation, avulsion of brain, multiple calvarial and basilar skull fractures, facial fractures, and cervical vertebrae fractures. Fractures of maxilla and mandible, multiple lacerations of the tongue, cutaneous abrasions, contusions, and lacerations. Injuries to the torso, bilateral rib fractures and fracture of the sternum and cutaneous abrasions, contusions, and lacerations of extremities.”
On that note, have a happy Fourth of July.