The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 29, 2013

Law officers offer fireworks safety tips

From staff reports
The News Courier

— Alabama residents should have a blast this Fourth of July, but they should do it safely.

This is the wish of Alabama’s Integrated State Law Enforcement Task Force. The group urges residents to be careful while shooting fireworks in celebration of our nation’s Independence Day. Fireworks can be dangerous and, sometimes, deadly. They account for two of five fires and hundreds of injuries reported across the state each July Fourth, according to the group. The SLE Task Force offers the following tips for a safe holiday:

• Use common sense, and obey the law. (All fireworks are illegal inside the city limits of Athens, with the exception of a professional fireworks display.) Do not discharge fireworks within 600 feet of any enclosed building; do not shoot fireworks into or from a motor vehicle; do not shoot fireworks toward people or near animals.

• Supervise children ages 15 and under who want to buy or use fireworks.

• Use fireworks in a clear, open area outdoors and away from flammables and combustibles. There also should be an ample water supply, and a fire extinguisher on hand.

• Never consume alcohol while handling fireworks.

Who gets injured?

Statistics show between June 22 and July 22, 2012, more than 5,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms nationwide due to fireworks-related injuries, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Sixty percent of all fireworks injuries occur during the 30 days surrounding the July Fourth holiday.

More than half of these reported injuries involved burns to the hands, head and face. About 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers and bottle rockets, fireworks that are frequently — and incorrectly — considered safe for young children.  S p a r k l e r s   b u r n   a t   t e m p e r a t u r e s   o f   a b o u t   2 , 0 0 0   d e g r e e s  —    h o t   e n o u g h   t o   m e l t   s o m e   m e t a l s .

Follow-up investigations of incidents showed that most injuries were associated with malfunctioning fireworks or improper use. Malfunctioning fireworks often resulted in unexpected flight paths and dangerous debris.  Improper use included igniting fireworks too close to someone, lighting fireworks in one’s hand and playing with lit or used fireworks.