The Fourth of July is a time when we celebrate our nation’s independence by lighting fireworks at home, or attending professional fireworks displays. To many people, this national holiday just wouldn’t be the same without the loud boom of fireworks and the colorful displays in the evening sky.
The fun and excitement of fireworks is not without dangers and risks, particularly for children. Injuries to children on or around July 4 holiday weekend are common. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that the risk of fireworks injury is highest among young children under the age of five, followed by children between the ages of 10 and 14.
New Fireworks Law Takes Effect in Georgia
Earlier this year, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 110, amending the provisions of the Official Code of Georgia regulating the use and sale of fireworks. In recent years, the fireworks one could legally purchase in the state of Georgia were limited to “Safe and Sane” fireworks like sparklers, roman candles, and fireworks that never leave the ground. When H.B. 110 takes effect on July 1, 2015, the definition of consumer fireworks will be expanded to include sky rockets as well as “Class C” fireworks like those typically seen in professional firework displays.
House bill 110 contained several smaller changes to laws relating to fireworks that are noteworthy as well. It explicitly excluded consumer fireworks from the provisions of the Georgia code prohibiting the carrying of weapons within school safety zones, making it lawful to possess consumer fireworks on school property. The law also set a curfew with regard to when fireworks could be discharged. Under the new law, fireworks are permitted to be used any day of the year between the hours of 10 A.M. and 12:00 Midnight. An exception was also created to allow for the lawful use of fireworks between the hours of 12:00 Midnight and 2:00 A.M. on January 1, July 3, July 4, and December 31.
Consumer Fireworks-Related Injuries
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), fireworks-related injuries send an average of 240 people to the emergency room every day during the weeks surrounding July 4. In 2013, approximately 62 percent of those incidents were burn injuries, with 36 percent occurring to the hands and fingers, and 22 percent to the head, face and ears.
Only two percent of injuries from fireworks occurred at public displays. Women were more likely to sustain injury at these types of displays than men. Men were more often injured while using consumer fireworks such as sparklers, firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets.
The consumer fireworks responsible for causing 41 percent of fireworks-related injuries are sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That is hot enough to melt certain metals, and cause severe burns to fingers and hands.
Fireworks Safety Tips
If you plan to include fireworks in your Independence Day or holiday weekend activities, these tips can help keep you and your children safe:
- Never let small children ignite or play with fireworks.
- Make plans to attend a public fireworks display put on by professionals.
- Stay at least 500 feet back from the show or ignition site.
- Be sure children are supervised at all times, particularly when fireworks are in use.
- Do not attempt to pick up or re-light fireworks that did not fully ignite.
- Never point fireworks in the direction of people, homes or flammable materials.
- Keep a safe distance from dry vegetation or brush which could catch on fire.
- Immediately seek medical attention for any fireworks-related burns.
By adhering to these simple tips, you and your family will improve your chances of being able to enjoy watching the fireworks this Fourth of July without concerns about causing a serious burn, to a child or adult, or causing a fire.