Play it Safe this 4th of July


Fireworks originated in China during the Sung dynasty, from 960 to 1279, when a cook discovered that a mixture of sulphur, saltpetre, and charcoal was highly flammable (I bet that was an interesting mealtime). Today’s fireworks are made colorful by combining potassium chlorate and various metallic salts which produce may colors. Strontium burns red, copper blue, barium glows green, and sodium produces yellow. Magnesium, aluminium, and titanium give off white sparkles or a flash.

As the Fourth of July holiday comes closer, most families will go to big community fireworks displays, which are performed by professionals that take many precautions to assure safety.

Some families will have their own backyard festivities with store-bought fireworks. Unfortunately, many will not take the safety precautions that the pros do.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that in 2004 (latest figures available) about 9,600 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for fireworks injuries. Over half were burns and most involved the hands, eyes, and head. About half of the victims were under 15 years of age.

Small children are especially vulnerable because they are attracted to the bright colors of fireworks, but don’t understand the danger. This includes “safe” fireworks such as sparklers, which burn at between 1832º – 3632º Fahrenheit. Yikes!

In 2005 fireworks caused an estimated 1,800 structure fires and 700 vehicle fires.

Following are some fireworks safety tips to keep kids safe this holiday and all summer

  • Only adults should handle fireworks. Tell children that they should leave the area immediately if their friends are using fireworks.
  • Sparklers, generally considered safe for the young, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing.
  • Older children should only be permitted to use fireworks under close adult supervision. Do not allow any running or horseplay.
  • Discuss safety procedures with your children. Teach children "stop, drop and roll" if their clothes catch fire. Make sure they know how to call 9-1-1. Show them how to put out fireworks by using water or a fire extinguisher.
  • Read labels and carefully follow directions. All fireworks must carry a warning label describing necessary safety precautions. If they don’t have the label, don’t use them.
  • Never use fireworks indoors.
  • Be sure spectators are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never aim or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Never place your face or any other body part over fireworks (eye protection is recommended).
  • Never try to re-ignite fireworks that malfunction. Throw them away.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that don’t go off.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
  • Check for drought conditions in your area. During those times, fireworks are usually banned completely.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
  • Store fireworks in a dry, cool place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
  • Observe local laws.
  • Don’t experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Be considerate of your neighbors and stop your celebrations by 10:00 p.m.
  • Clean up all the sticks, wires, tubes, etc. that are left around after your fireworks. Put them in a bucket of water and let them soak overnight to be sure they are out.
  • Many pets are terrorized by fireworks. Be sure your dogs and cats are in an area they feel secure in. Don’t take them to community fireworks displays.
  • Use common sense.
  • Even by following these tips, fireworks can still be quite dangerous. Use safe alternatives to fireworks such as Cap bombs, Sparklers, Party Poppers, Snappers, or Big-Bang Cannons (shameless plug).

This series of three images are from a Consumer Products Safety Commission fireworks safety demonstration using manequins illustrating a scene in an incident where a man and his nephew were killed as they removed powder from fireworks bought in New Hampshire to create larger, more powerful and illegal fireworks, in Washington, Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Bang Cannons are the only safe substitute for fireworks. They were originally created because the inventor was concerned about the large amounts of injuries from fireworks.
Big Bang Cannons create a loud "bang" by imploding, Once the gas in the cannon ignites, it draws air back into the cannon, creating a noise as loud as fireworks. This makes them very safe because you cannot place anything in the barrel and expel it (that would only inhibit the combustion). They also do not use gunpowder or matches, instead using Bangsite as fuel. Bangsite is not combustible and cannot be ignited by fire or concussion (you can see why they are so safe). Because of these safety features, Big Bang Cannons can be fired by older children with adult supervision (follow all safety precautions). They are also quite loud and are certainly a great substitute for fireworks. Perfect for your 4th of July celebration!

This article is available for re-print here

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