LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

How to practice firework safety this Independence Day

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

This year marks the third year New Jersey allows consumers to buy and light handheld sparklers or items that don’t shoot high into the air and explode. Consumer advocates, first responders and medical professionals say they can’t stress safety and prevention enough on and around Independence Day.

“But be careful because even the fireworks that available in your local Wal-Mart or Costco do pose dangers, and especially with small children. Small children don’t have the judgment necessary to protect themselves,” said Dr. Michael Marano, medical director of the burn center at St. Barnabas Medical Center.

The National Safety Council goes even further. It advises leaving fireworks play to the professionals, and for consumers “not to use any fireworks at home. They may be legal but they are not safe.”

But, the multi-billion dollar industry argues otherwise, saying to just practice prevention. Best practices for safety include: having adults supervise, don’t allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, don’t put your body over them when lighting them, don’t pick up ones that didn’t fully ignite, and keep them away from structures and dry grass.

The statistics for fireworks mishaps and injuries seem staggering from year to year and decade to decade. Every year, there’s an average 18,500 fires related to fireworks that cause $43 million in damage. In 2018, there were 9,100 injuries treated in hospitals. Sparklers account for more than half of injuries in children under five.

In 2018, there were five firework-related deaths recorded, but researchers are still finalizing the statistics. Over the past 15 years there have been 121 deaths total. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports eye injuries nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017.

“So please know your limits and watch after your children very carefully,” said Marano.

Doctors say keeping the fun in fireworks play on Independence Day depends on practicing fireworks safety.