By Tracey Dowdy
The fourth of July is the most quintessential of American holidays. It’s also the most dangerous. According to the American Safety Council, there were approximately 540 fatalities and nearly 58,000 serious injuries reported on Independence Day 2017. Alcohol was a contributing factor in many of these accidents, as were fireworks. Of the 5,200 injuries from fireworks each year, over 30% happen to children—primarily from sparklers, novelty devices, and aerial devices.
But, following a few simple rules, this can be your safest and most fun Fourth yet!
First, remember that no matter what your Uncle Dave says, there are no safe fireworks for kids. What other day of the year do you put fire in your child’s hands? Sparklers can reach up to 3,000℉, 15 times the boiling point of water, hot enough to cause severe burns and ignite flammable clothing. Instead, purchase glow sticks or other glow-in-the-dark accessories that are safer and don’t come with a high risk of injury.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends skipping the fireworks at home and instead, find a professional display in your area. However, since there are cultural traditions tied to the celebration, if you do purchase fireworks, make sure they’re for personal, not professional use. Fireworks for personal use will be in colorful packaging – fireworks designed for commercial – read professional – use will be in generic packaging possibly even wrapped in plain brown paper, and most importantly, lack the safety labeling meant for consumers. Establish a “no-fly zone” far from the ignition point and make sure your kids are well outside the circle.
Adults, keep yourself safe. Model the behavior you want your children to follow.
- Light fireworks one at a time, away from your body, then move away quickly.
- If a firework doesn’t light, don’t try again, douse it in a bucket of water.
- NEVER throw fireworks or point them toward another person.
- Use only the firing mechanism or fuse that came with the fireworks.
- Once spent, soak all used fireworks in a bucket of water.
If you attend a fireworks display, stay within the designated area, don’t ignore barriers and caution tape for the sake of a better view. Particularly important for young children or those with sensitivity to sound, give them a heads up about what they can expect and will experience. Knowing they’re in a safe zone can eliminate some of the anxiety that comes from the sonic boom.
However, if they do become anxious or begin to panic, have a Plan B, whether that means watching a favorite video with headphones on a tablet or phone, or simply knowing the shortest route back to your car.
One of the best things about the 4th of July holiday is the opportunity for making memories – following these tips can ensure they’re good ones.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.