4th of July Firework Safety Tips

4th of July Firework Safety Tips


It is that time of year again! The Fourth of July is only a few days away, and it’s a great time to bust out your grilling skills to kick off the summer season. It’s also time for fireworks to make a reappearance in many neighborhoods across the country. Speaking of fireworks, even though they are pretty to look at, they can also be potentially deadly to deal with. Let’s explore how you and your family can stay safe while enjoying your Fourth.

How do fireworks work?

Fireworks are explosives that can shoot into the sky to create a stunning array of multiple colors. When the fuse is lit, a tiny explosion occurs within the firework to give it lift into the sky. Once that fuse burns the rest of the firework, the “boom” is heard, and a splash of colors will light up the sky. But let’s start with the basics.

According to the Library of Congress, “to assemble aerial fireworks, trained professionals called pyrotechnics first make stars by mixing the black powder with different chemicals or metals. When reacting with heat from exploding black powder, the chosen additive produces a certain color”. The chemicals (or called pellets) are contained in cardboard, or a plastic container called a shell to protect it from going off too early. The pellets, depending on how they are packed, will give the firework its shape.

What are some tips to stay safe?

The National Safety Council (NSC) provides some excellent tips on how to stay safe while using fireworks. Below are their tips directly from their site, along with Cross Valley Health & Medicine’s thoughts.

  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks
    • Young children that cannot understand what they are holding or looking at should not be handling fireworks. The loud boom or an ember can scare the child, causing them to lose control of the firework they are handling and cause harm to someone else. The Consumer Product Safety Commission for 2020 stated that “children 0 to 4 years of age had the highest estimated rate emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries (5.3 injuries per 100,000 people).”
  • Older children should use them only under close adult supervision
    • Older children that can understand what they are holding or looking at can handle fireworks, but only under the direct supervision of a trusted adult (or more trusted adults works too). Just in case if a firework malfunctions, there should be a plan or a discussion on what to do if this occurs so everyone can stay safe. 
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol
    • Drugs and alcohol can seriously impair a user and should never be used around fireworks. These two activities can cause you to make poor decisions like shooting a firework at your friend, causing them to be seriously burned or even killed. Please drink and use legal drugs responsibly no matter where you are at. 
  • Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear
    • Most cheap fireworks are only made of industrial cardboard, so they can easily break or malfunction. Once the fuse is lit, there is almost no going back. The firework can explode too early, causing the pellets to disperse, and some may land on your skin or even in your eyes. The chemicals contained in these pellets could burn whatever they touch, so it’s best not to take chances and wear protective eyewear that can block and prevent debris from entering your eyes. Even the people remotely close to lighting the firework should take the same precaution as well. 
  • Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands
    • Fireworks will always run the risk of exploding too early. If you hold a lit firework and it explodes in your hand, you may end up with a few missing fingers or even your whole hand. The Consumer Product Safety Commission for 2020 reported that “the parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 30 percent); legs (an estimated 23 percent); eyes (an estimated 15 percent); head, face, and ears (an estimated 15 percent); and arms (an estimated 10 percent).” Don’t become a part of this 2021’s statistic; light the fuse and back up. 
  • Never light them indoors
    • Lighting fireworks indoors sounds like a simple instruction, but for some, it’s not that easy. Fireworks that explode while indoors can cause fires and even severely burn everyone else in the room or building. Debris from glass or other items can also be a danger. After being in lockdown from 2020, we should take some time to be outside and enjoy the great outdoors, so don’t light fireworks indoors. 
  • Only use them away from people, houses, and flammable materials
    • Fireworks have the potential to propel in an intended direction, so make sure the area surrounding the firework is clear of any people, houses, or flammable materials (like the stash of fireworks nearby). 
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person
    • Treat a firework-like any gun, treat it as it’s loaded, and only aim it at something you intend to shoot. In this case, the sky should be the target, and since it’s pretty wide open, you shouldn’t have any issues with hitting your target. The sky should be your only target while using fireworks, not your friends. 
  • Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting
    • Lighting one firework at a time means there’s more focus on that one particular firework so everyone won’t miss it. Lighting many a time may seem like an excellent idea in the beginning. Still, it only takes one firework to blow up too early, taking out the surrounding fireworks or even your friends, family, or even yourself. Keep the old phrase “slow and steady wins the race” in mind next time you want to light 40 sparklers at once in your hand (this is also dangerous). 
  • Never ignite devices in a container
    • Firework pellets are already in a container, so there isn’t a need to add another container. Putting an explosive in a closed jar or a box will cause shards of glass or other dangerous materials all over the place and could hit someone or someone’s property. 
  • Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
    • Unfortunately, some fireworks will not light or go off; it’s probably a good reason why it never went off. Like any other product that did not work as intended, fireworks will explode once the fuse hits the shell causing the pellets to scatter. If they did not explode, chances are this is a spent firework and should be treated as such. Walking up to a spent firework that never went off runs the risk of it actually exploding (on a delay) right next to you, causing some serious unexpected damage that could have been easily avoided. 
  • Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
    • Fireworks do not like water since it’s mostly made up of cardboard and the fuse probably won’t light if wet. After the firework went off, making sure that it was doused with water to put any lingering embers will help the chances of any remaining black powder inside the shell from going off even after going off. 
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire
    • The same general idea from the bullet point above shows that it’s always a good idea to keep water around a fire if you need it. Even if you put a spent firework in the trash, it could light paper or cardboard within the trash, causing a fire in your trash bin. 
  • Never use illegal fireworks
    • Illegal fireworks are illegal for a reason; the potential for them to malfunction can ruin your Fourth really fast. See the below news article as reported by The Consumer Product Safety Commission for 2020 that gives a good reason why using illegal fireworks is not a good idea:
      • A 36-year-old male died from fireworks-related injuries sustained from an incident that occurred while lighting fireworks in a parking lot on July 4, 2019. According to a news report, the victim placed a mortar shell inside a PVC pipe; this was unverified by the EMS or medical reports. An ambulance was called in response to an event where a fireworks device reportedly exploded in the victim’s face. The victim was found in a yard in cardiac arrest, while a large crowd of more than 100 people were celebrating the fourth of July and setting off large fireworks devices. The victim received a large wound to his right eye and had to be moved into the ambulance due to the combative nature of the crowd. The ambulance took the victim to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The medical examination indicated that the victim suffered burns all over his face and head, along with multiple fractures to the bones of his face and skull. The cause of death was explosive injuries to the head.

Wrapping up

Now that you are aware of some essential safety tips for using fireworks let’s all enjoy this year’s Fourth of July responsibly. If you and your family are looking to see a firework show this year, try Googling “firework show near me” and several events may come up in your search bar. Make sure to keep these tips in mind so everyone can stay safe. If you do end up getting burned, or have any questions about this article, Cross Valley Health & Medicine providers will be on standby to help you the best they can during this holiday weekend.

Cross Valley Health & Medicine is a primary care practice located in Newburgh, NY, allowing for both virtual and in-person appointments. The practice has two medical providers on staff, a medical doctor who is dual board-certified in Addiction Medicine and Internal Medicine and a family nurse practitioner. Both providers are eager to see new patients for the following programs: Addiction Medicine, Behavioral Health Management, HIV/AIDS Care Management, Internal Medicine, Medical Marijuana Certifications, Medication-Assisted Treatment, STDI/STI Care Management, and Weight Loss Management. If you are interested in becoming a patient of Cross Valley, please click here to access our online paperwork portal.