How To Handle Fireworks Safely

Many Americans love to celebrate the 4th of July with a big bang, literally. Each year, people look forward to a backyard cook-out and popping fireworks.

Every year, nearly 5,000 children, ages 14 and under, are treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries, and children, aged 10 to 14, account for the majority of these incidents. Not surprisingly, more than half of those accidents occur in the weeks just before and after the 4th of July.

So on Thursday's The Early Show, Heather Paul, executive director of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, had some tips on how to keep children out of harm's way.

It doesn't matter whether you use legal or illegal fireworks, Paul says, you still need to know how to handle them properly to avoid injury. She says, "Even legal fireworks need to be handled very, very carefully. Of course, illegal ones probably mean they are much more powerful and bigger. So we're suggesting certainly that only adults should handle anything from sparklers on up."

About sparklers, she says most parents think they are safe, but she notes, "It gives off sparks. You can still have an eye injury. They are still hot and they end up with burned hands. Sparklers should be in the hands of adults when used."

Paul says, "In the worst case, if kids are near fireworks and something goes wrong, kids should all know how to call 911, first and foremost. Secondly, they should know stop, drop and roll. If their clothes get on fire, it's what they can do quickly to put that fire out. There are also other tips as well."

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks that are banned and often seized under the program include M-80s, quarter-sticks, half-sticks, and other large firecrackers. Any firecracker with more than 50 milligrams of explosive powder is banned under federal law, as are mail-order kits and components designed to build these fireworks. There may be additional laws and regulations in your state.

The consequences of fireworks misuse can be severe burns, loss of eyesight, amputation, and even death. If using fireworks, remember to follow fireworks laws in your area, practice extreme caution and remember these vital safety guidelines recommended by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign:

  • Only adults should handle fireworks. Tell children that they should leave the area immediately if their friends are using fireworks. Never give fireworks - even sparklers - to young children. Sparklers burn at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to cause third-degree burns.
  • Discuss safety procedure with your children. Teach children to "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. Keep a bucket of water or a hose handy in case of a malfunction or fire.
  • Read labels and carefully follow directions. All fireworks must carry a warning label describing necessary safety precautions.
  • 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.
  • Never try to reignite fireworks that malfunction.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.
  • Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials. Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.

According to the CPSC, seven states ban all consumer fireworks: Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. Seven states only allow sparklers and/or other novelties: Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Consumer fireworks are legal for public sale in 36 states and the District of Columbia. They include shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets, sparklers, firecrackers with no more than 50 milligrams of powder, and novelty items such as snakes and airplanes. Some states may permit all or limit some types of consumer fireworks to be sold. It is important to note that states may also have local laws prohibiting or limiting the use of certain consumer fireworks.