Independence Day, the peak of summer, is fast approaching. This sparked – ha! – a question about these famous fixtures of our celebration: fireworks. We all should know by now that they are as dangerous as they are delightful. In truth, they are actually missiles that just happen to explode with lots of pretty colors rather than collateral damage, at least, ideally. They are classified as hazardous substances by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Though they are legal to buy locally here in Whatcom County, this doesn’t mean they are safe to use in the hands of some revelers, namely kids and drunk people.
Every year, I think back to the case of a teenaged girl whose family came to me after she lost an eye in a fireworks accident. The limits of the insurance policies her family had pursued on their own did not cover the extent of her injuries and their lifelong effects. I was glad to help her and her family get just compensation for what they’d endured in a careless, negligent accident that took her eye. But more importantly is avoiding accidents like Beth’s in the first place, and using fireworks responsibly, like the powerful missiles they are. Below are some safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety to help make your holiday a memorable one in the way you want to remember them.
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks. Check the link for current laws on Whatcom County cities and county usage, but please note that within Bellingham city limits, lighting fireworks is illegal.
- Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
- A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
- Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
- Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
- Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
- Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers. Really. You don’t want to be this guy.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
- FAA regulations PROHIBIT the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
- Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.
And let’s not forget the safety of our pets!
- Don’t bring your pets to a fireworks display, even a small one.
- If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to the sound.
- Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.
- Never shoot fireworks of any kind (consumer fireworks, sparklers, fountains, etc.) near pets.