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Emergency 101: Fireworks Safety

Stay safe this holiday season and enjoy Independence Day!


by Benton Best - July 3, 2019

Believed to have been accidentally discovered around 2,000 years ago in China, fireworks have now become a regular past time for patriotic Americans enjoying their summers. With famous local displays like those in Galeton, Pennsylvania and at the Ives Run State Park in Tioga, Pennsylvanians are no strangers to fireworks.

But fireworks can also be extremely dangerous. On average, 280 people go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries each day in the days surrounding the July 4th holiday. Every year, about 13,000 people are treated for injuries in hospital emergency departments due to the mishandling of live, misfired, and waste consumer fireworks. Additionally, more than 16,000 annually reported fires were started by fireworks, resulting in in over $20 million in direct property damages. So how can we prevent injuries, damages, and the loss of life when using fireworks?

The first recommendation is to not use fireworks at all. Many communities have very reputable fireworks displays which are organized by professionals and are completely free. Viewing these displays have very little risk. However, a standard sparkler can actually get up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. For perspective, glass melts at 900 degrees, wood burns at 575 degrees, and water bowls at 212 degrees. That means water boils at 1,000 less degrees than a sparkler. This is why experts highly recommend that children not be allowed to use sparklers and other fireworks.

Here are some other basic fireworks safety tips by the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
1. Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks
2. Don’t re-light or pick up fireworks which haven’t already ignited fully
3. Always keep a bucket of water, fire extinguisher, or garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap
4. Light fireworks one at a time and then move back quickly

Pennsylvania law requires that consumer fireworks only be purchased at a licensed permanent fireworks facility in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the law places certain restrictions on the use of fireworks in the Commonwealth. For example, fireworks may not be:
1. Discharged within 150 feet of an occupied structure
2. Initiated or discharged on public or private property without express permission of the property owner
3. Discharged from or within a motor vehicle or building
4. Discharged toward a motor vehicle or building
5. Discharged by a person under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or another drug

To close this segment, we’re going to talk about the real-world impacts of mishandling fireworks. In July of 2017, a 4-year-old girl in Wisconsin was killed while watching her father light fireworks at their home. The father put numerous individual sparklers into a piece of metal tube and then secured to tube in a potted plant to make it stay upright. He had done this several times before without incident. However, this time the sparklers blew apart the tube, sending shrapnel into the neck of the little girl standing 10 feet away. She died shortly after.

Don’t become another tragic statistic this holiday season, be responsible. Try to avoid using fireworks altogether and instead see a display put on by experts. If you are going to use fireworks, however, use good judgement. Keep this tips in mind and check out the following resources for more information on fireworks and fireworks safety:
PA Act 47 of 2017


Videography: Andrew Moore

Video Editing: Andrew Moore

Writing: Benton Best


Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by UPMC Susquehanna, Automax

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