Across America, there are roughly 14,000 professional fireworks displays each Fourth of July. But about 26% of revelers choose to stage their own private shows at home. And while a healthy number of people are able to celebrate our country’s independence without incident, the period between June 20 and July 20 often gives way to a spike in fireworks-related injuries. For that reason alone, it’s probably best to leave the fireworks to the professionals. But if you’re determined to do fireworks yourself, you’re more likely to avoid injury with smart planning and careful handling. Here, we’ve assembled a few tips to help you light up the night — safely. And of course, if fireworks are illegal in your area, you should probably avoid them altogether.
When it comes to fireworks, you definitely don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen — otherwise things could quickly spiral into dangerous territory as different people light different fireworks in different spots, putting everyone at risk to be hit. Choose one sensible adult to man the fireworks, and make sure that he or she wears safety glasses and abstains from alcohol.
Playing with fireworks is, literally, playing with fire. That’s why it’s so important to keep a source of water nearby to put out stray flames or sparks from firecrackers. A water hose or a large bucket of water should do the trick. If you have any duds —fireworks that you lit but did not ignite — be sure to heavily douse them in water. Allow duds to rest for at least 20 minutes before you pick them up — they could be delayed starters. At the end of your celebration, place all duds and fireworks fragments in a doubled trash bag and dispose in a trashcan that’s far away from any buildings.
As you’re setting up your Fourth of July celebration, think about where people will be sitting or standing, and plan to launch your fireworks in the opposite direction. And as you’re deciding on the types and sizes of the fireworks that you will set off, keep in mind how much space you have. You don’t want to buy Disney World-sized Roman candles and your yard is a 10’x10’ patch of grass. Scale your celebration so that there’s at least 15 feet between any sparks and your audience.
Before lighting your fireworks, make sure you’ve set them up on even, solid ground. Sand, dirt, gravel and grass are often bumpy and patchy, and this could cause fireworks to tip over and shoot towards your audience. If grass or some other uneven surface is the only area you have available, lay down a flat board and launch your fireworks from that. Also, avoid using matches to light fireworks. Instead, opt for a long, multipurpose lighter, keeping your hands and face away from the firework as you’re lighting it. After your firework is ignited, quickly move away.
Lots of things are better when you make them at home. Fireworks aren’t one of these things. So if you’ve got the urge to put on your own fireworks show, head down to your local dealer and pick up some professionally produced products. Cobbling together your own pyrotechnic creation will likely lead to injury. Also, avoid reconfiguring any fireworks that you purchase. This includes combining the fuses of several explosives to create one big “super firework.”
We’re not saying you need a medical degree or anything, but some general first-aid knowledge could come in handy if something goes awry. It would be useful to know how to treat small burns and surface-level abrasions, and if the injury appears to be severe, don’t try and treat it on your own — transport the person to the emergency room or call 911 immediately.
With a little preparation and a lot of caution, you and your family could easily host the world’s greatest DIY fireworks show.