By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer
July 3, 2020- Fireworks have been part of Fourth of July celebrations since 1777; unfortunately, so have injuries. This year may pose increased risks, as many have responded to the cancelation of professional community displays by purchasing consumer fireworks.
Cleveland.com reports that fireworks complaints in our area have surged, with Cleveland alone seeing a 461% increase. Many regions in the U.S. are seeing similar increases, according to CNN, while the American Pyrotechnics Association anticipates this year will set an all-time high for backyard consumer fireworks sales.
The number of injuries caused by fireworks in a typical year, however, is sobering. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states that, in 2019, about 10,000 injuries and 12 fireworks-related deaths were reported, 73% of which occurred from June 21 to July 21. During that period, sparklers alone caused 900 injuries, many of them to children. (The full report is here).
Andrew Neading, burn program coordinator at Cleveland’s MetroHealth System, said that MetroHealth anticipates an increased number of burn injuries this year.
“MetroHealth treats approximately six burn and blast injuries related to firework use every year,” he said. “Although most of these injuries can be treated as an outpatient, some do require an inpatient stay. Inpatients may require skin grafting and reconstructive work given the extent of injury.”
Andrew also mentioned the risk posed by sparklers as their high burning temperature can cause deep burns. He advised close parental supervision, as well as keeping fireworks in a secure location away from children. Andrew also noted that alcohol is often a contributing factor in both traumatic and burn injury and to please consume it responsibly. He added, “Be safe and enjoy the holiday!”
Given the risks of injury and fire, particularly during a time when medical professionals and facilities are stressed, and that most fireworks are illegal in Ohio, the Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross recommends avoiding backyard fireworks to help ensure a safe and happy Fourth holiday.
If you decide to light fireworks anyway, the Red Cross recommends that you:
- Check first if it is legal in your area. (Only “trick and novelty” fireworks that smoke, pop, and/or sparkle are currently legal in Ohio).
- Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
- Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
- Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
- Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
- Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight a “dud.”
- Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
These and other July Fourth safety tips are available here.
Fireworks are especially stressful for pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers suggestions here.
However you celebrate this Independence Day, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable experience.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer