15 fireworks safety tips to prevent injuries and property damage

The Fourth of July and spectacular fireworks displays go hand-in-hand. From 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

Fireworks are beautiful, but they’re also dangerous.

In 2013, in the United States alone, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires, including 1,400 total structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 outside and other fires, according to the Quincy, Massachusetts-based  National Fire Protection Association. These fires resulted in an estimated $21 million in direct property damage.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports 230 people on average go the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday. In 2013, there were eight deaths and an estimated 11,400 consumers who sustained injuries related to fireworks. Sixty-five percent, or 7,400, of the injuries in 2013, occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4, 2013, according to CPSC‘s latest data.

Homeowners’s coverage

Will your home insurance cover fireworks injuries and damage? The answer is complicated, according to Insurance.com. Most home insurance policies provide several different types of protection — each with varying payout limits. Also, there are different types of accidents.

If you’re shooting off illegal fireworks and set fire to your house, you may not be covered. Most policies exclude damage resulting from illegal acts or when you purposely caused injury or damage.

 

If fireworks set fire to leaves in your gutter, a section of your home insurance policy for fire incidents could cover the damage. Fireworks that malfunction and injure a friend on your property could be covered under a section for medical payments to others. Likewise, liability payments could cover your fireworks accidentally shooting into your neighbor’s house and breaking a window.

But if you get into a bottle-rocket war and injure someone, you may not be covered because the incident was intentional.

Worldwide catastrophes

Each year, fireworks cause extensive property damage and injuries around the world. From China to Mexico, images on the following pages tell the stories of the aftermath following fireworks accidents.

Here are 15 fireworks safety tips to help prevent injuries and protect property from organizations including the American Pyrotechnics AssociationNational Council on Fireworks Safety, National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

massive fire broke out during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple complex

People check out the damaged structures after a massive fire broke out during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple complex in Paravoor village, Kollam district, southern Kerala state, India, April 11, 2016. Medical teams tended to hundreds of people injured in a massive fire that killed more than a hundred, while authorities searched for those responsible for illegally putting on the fireworks display that caused the weekend blaze. (Photo: Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo)

1. Use fireworks outdoors only

All fireworks burn, and can quickly start a house or structure fire.

Burnt debris and damaged cars following an explosion at a fireworks stand

Burnt debris and damaged cars following an explosion at a fireworks stand in a market village in Osinow Dolny, near the border with Germany, northwest Poland, March 29, 2016. According to reports, a small number of people, including one German, have been hospitalized with injuries. (Photo: Pawel Zielonka/AP Photo)

2. Point fireworks away from homes and buildings

Keep fireworks away from brush, leaves and flammable substances. Use launching fireworks in open areas only to ensure they don’t land on top of buildings and houses — especially those with natural (cedar) type shingles.

Don’t light fireworks under trees or near vehicles or windows.

Jordanian firemen extinguish a fire at the site where two containers filled with fireworks exploded

Jordanian firemen extinguish a fire at the site where two containers filled with fireworks exploded, in Amman, Jordan, Oct. 26, 2015. Two containers filled with fireworks exploded at a customs storage area in Jordan’s capital of Amman, killing many people and wounding at least 9, several critically, a civil defense official said. (Photo: Raad Adayleh/AP Photo)

3. Don’t point fireworks at people

Also, maintain a safe distance when watching fireworks shows.

The destroyed fireworks factory Pirotecnia Zaragozana's building is seen behind firefighters trucks

The destroyed fireworks factory Pirotecnia Zaragozana’s building is seen behind firefighters trucks after a huge explosion occurred around 2 p.m. in Pinseque, Spain, Aug. 31, 2015. The blast at a fireworks factory in northeastern Spain killed a number of people and seriously injured others. Police and firefighters didn’t know the cause of the blast. (Photo: Aranzazu Navarro/AP Photo)

4. Store fireworks properly

Storing fireworks can be tricky — if stored improperly, they could lose their charge, weaken, or even prematurely ignite.

  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry, dark location.
  • Keep stored fireworks away from potential heat sources such as light bulbs, furnaces, engines and other combustible materials.
  • Don’t store fireworks in bulk in case they explode before you want them to.
  • Store fireworks out of reach of children and pets.

aftermath of a fireworks explosion in Comanche, Texas

This photo from video provided by WFAA-TV in Dallas shows the aftermath of a fireworks explosion in Comanche, Texas, TJuly 3, 2014. A trailer loaded with fireworks exploded near a Texas high school, killing one person and injuring three other people who were setting up for a Fourth of July show. It’s unclear what triggered the explosion, which occurred near a baseball field adjacent to the high school in Comanche, about 100 miles southwest of Fort Worth. The trailer was hooked to a pickup truck.(Photo: WFAA-TV via AP Photo) 

5. Never use homemade fireworks

Buy fireworks only from a licensed store or stand — not from the seller’s home or car. Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.

Read all instructions before igniting. Never alter or combine fireworks in any way, including trimming fuses or cutting away protective packaging.

Hats belonging to victims sit on the hood of a damaged car

Hats belonging to victims sit on the hood of a damaged car as emergency workers gather a the scene where a truck loaded with fireworks exploded during a religious procession in the town of Nativitas, Mexico, March 15, 2013. A truck loaded with fireworks exploded during a religious procession in this rural village in central Mexico, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens more, authorities said. (Photo: J. Guadalupe Perez/AP Photo)

6. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire

Also, have a first aid kit ready and waiting.

Police officials investigate a site in Simi Valley, Calif., Friday July 5, 2013 where an explosion injured more than two dozen people

Police officials investigate a site in Simi Valley, Calif., July 5, 2013, where an explosion injured more than two dozen people at a fireworks display. The explosion occurred when a wood platform holding live fireworks tipped over, sending the pyrotechnics into the crowd of spectators. (Photo: Nick Ut/AP Photo)

7. Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks

 

Safety glasses will protect your eyes from errant sparks when lighting fireworks and from flying debris if there is a quicker-than-expected explosion.

Smoke billows from the B.E.M fireworks factory in Coteau du Lac, Quebec

Smoke billows from the B.E.M. fireworks factory in Coteau du Lac, Quebec, June 20, 2013, following an explosion. Quebec provincial police are investigating a massive explosion at the fireworks factory west of Montreal. There were no immediate reports of injuries and the cause of the blast is unknown. Police have ordered the surrounding community of Coteau-du-Lac evacuated. (Photo: The Canadian Press via AP Photo)

8. Don’t use fireworks while consuming alchoholic beverages or drugs

Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save alchohol for after the show.

fire burns out a residential homes and a warehouse on Lagos Island

Residents look as a fire burns out a residential homes and a warehouse on Lagos Island in Lagos, Nigeria, Dec. 26, 2012. An explosion ripped through a warehouse Wednesday where witnesses say fireworks were stored in Nigeria’s largest city, sparking a fire. It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was injured in the blast that firefighters and locals struggled to contain. (Photos: Sunday Alamba via AP Photo)

9. Don’t ignite fireworks in a container

Also, never shoot fireworks into metal or glass containers. And never carry fireworks in your pocket.

Rescue personnel work in the debris left by a fireworks explosion in Santo Andre on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009.

Rescue personnel work in the debris left by a fireworks explosion in Santo Andre on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Sept. 24, 2009. The explosion killed at least three people, injured at least 14, and demolished several homes. (Photo: Andre Penner/AP Photo)

10. Never relight a ‘dud’ firework

Wait 20 minutes and then soak any ‘dud’ fireworks in a bucket of water.

Police investigators gather pieces of evidence at the site Friday Jan. 30, 2009, a day after a powerful explosion at a fireworks factory

Police investigators gather pieces of evidence at the site Jan. 30, 2009, a day after a powerful explosion at a fireworks factory at Trece Martires City, Cavite Province, 50 kilometers south of Manila, Philippines. At least six people were killed and more than 40 injured when a powerful explosion obliterated a fireworks factory south of Manila, officials said. (Photo: Bullit Marquez/AP Photo)

11. Carefully dispose of spent fireworks

Dispose of spent fireworks by soaking them in a bucket of water and placing in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials.

Part of fire damaged Mandarin Oriental hotel building

Part of fire damaged Mandarin Oriental hotel building, right, is seen in Beijing’s central business district, China, Feb. 10, 2009. An Olympic-style fireworks display put on by China’s state-run television broadcaster was the cause of a spectacular blaze that destroyed the luxury hotel that was part of the network’s landmark headquarters in Beijing, a fire department spokesman said Tuesday. (Photo: Alexander F. Yuan/AP Photo)

12. Light one firework at a time

Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. After lighting a firework, quickly move away.

Keep spectators a safe distance away from the lighting area — at least 20 feet.

Girl holding an American flag out car sunroof in the wind

Setting off fireworks in windy conditions is dangerous. (Photo: iStock)

13. Don’t light fireworks in windy conditions

Wind can affect how the sparks fly or may move the charge unexpectedly.

Fire Danger High, No Fireworks sign

High temperatures and no rain have made the grassland ripe for fires, prompting the posting of signs July 17, 2007, northwest of Salt Lake City. The dried-out grasses that fuel wildfires and fireworks concerns also are inadequate summer range for cattle. (Photo: Douglas C. Pizac/AP Photo)

14. Obey the law

Don’t use fireworks that are illegal in your city, county or state. In Denver, Colorado, for example, setting off fireworks — of any kind — is illegal, and the same goes for most Colorado Front Range cities.

“If you have to light it or ignite it, it’s illegal,” said Christine M. Downs, public information officer for the Denver Police Department, according to The Denver Post. That includes sparklers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and virtually anything loud or cool-looking.

Fireworks explode over the U.S. Capital

A professional fireworks display behind the U.S. Capital in Washington, D.C. (Photo: PRNewsFoto)

15. Leave fireworks to the professionals

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by trained professionals.

Jun 29, 2016 | By Jayleen R. Heft

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