Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Don't Blow Your Fourth of July Weekend Fun With A Fireworks Accident

It's that time of year again where tents selling fireworks seem to be on every corner and people enjoy the fun of the booms, crackles, pops and whistles that rocket and sparkle in the warm summer air.  Unfortunately, it is also a time when we hear too many stories of people getting killed or injured from being careless or drunk when enjoying fireworks turning a fun experience into a tragic situation.  The summer started off this year in our community with the news that a 47 year old man died the weekend before the Fourth of July when fireworks he was holding in his hand blew his head into fragments right in front of his horrified family.  Fireworks can be a fun summer time tradition, but please remember to treat them with caution and care because preventable accidents and deaths occur way too often during this time of the year.

Last year 11 people died from consumer fireworks incidents which isn't a huge number in the scope of all things but still were all living, breathing, folks who could still be living their lives today if they weren't essentially screwing around.  One of those deaths occurred locally here too when a 44 year old man was hit in the chest with an errant flying rocket on the Fourth of July.  In addition to the fatalities, 10,500 people were injured by fireworks last year according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

One of those was a high profile Detroit television personality who risked losing a high profile, high paying lucrative job when he lost an eye in a fireworks accident celebrating the Fourth of July in 2014.  Dave Rexroth, the 49 year old chief meteorologist at WXYZ - TV 7 described the incident in a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press newspaper, "a box of repeater mortars - multiple shells that shoot from a box up into the air and explode didn't go off - I went to check on it and it went off in my face."   As a result, he now wears a prosthetic eye.  It could have been worse though he could be blind or even worse dead.  Rexroth notes though "I'm not angry at the fireworks people ... I'm more angry at myself."

With more than $1.89 million in consumer fireworks sales just within Michigan last year, the bulk of those being sold between June and August, you can tell fireworks are a popular source of entertainment. Hey I'd be a hypocrite if I said "don't play with fireworks" as I've celebrated the holiday with them as a kid myself and with my kids as a Dad now. If you are planning on including your own personal fireworks celebration as part of the Fourth of July festivities, here is a friendly reminder on a few tips to keep in mind to keep everyone safe. 
  • NEVER allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers.  Parents may not realize how often young children suffer injuries from sparklers.  Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt metal;
  • ALWAYS have an adult close by to supervise fireworks activities if older children are allowed to handle devices;
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or mishap;
  • Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks.  Soak them with water and throw them away;
  • Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers;
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers;
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.  Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks;
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  •  It may not look cool, but consider wearing safety glasses to provide extra insurance your eyes are protected if you are the one lighting the fuses.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol while using fireworks - don't drink and drive / don't drink and shoot fireworks - impaired judgment is one of the leading causes of fireworks deaths and injuries.
Now these seem like obvious and easy rules to follow, yet thousands of people are getting hurt by not being careful enough around fireworks.  This year if you are using fireworks please take a step back and make sure you are being extra cautious and ensuring that only children are of appropriate age and maturity handle them plus are adequately supervised by adults.  We don't want to see anyone's Fourth of July blown apart by a fireworks accident.  Let's all have a fun and safe holiday!

For more information and tips CLICK HERE to visit the website for the NATIONAL COUNCIL ON FIREWORKS SAFETY, an industry trade association promoting responsible consumer behavior with its products.  The AMERICAN PYROTECHNICS ASSOCIATION also has a useful website filled with tips and information about responsible fireworks use.  CLICK HERE to read the Consumer Product Safety Commission's 2014 Fireworks Report that  was released in June 2015 which is an annual summary of accidents and injuries. You can also find useful fireworks safety tips and information from the CPSC here.

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