Ringing in the New Year with Fun and Safety

Let the celebrations begin! This Wednesday we say good-bye to 2003 and hello to 2004. For many ringing in the New Year means lighting up the night sky with fireworks.

Dazzling fireworks are a delight to the eyes, but don't let New Year's celebrations include a trip to the emergency room. They smoke, they crackle, they whistle, they sparkle, young and old ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ as fireworks light up the sky. Your backyard may see a more tame display this Wednesday and vendors are setting up shop to ring in the new year with explosive profits.

"It starts off pretty slow and then as it gets closer to New Years Eve itself this place is packed. People in here the last second picking up stuff."

Fireworks from Florida are just basically fancy sparklers, but they can still be dangerous, so all the necessary precautions need to be taken. Precautions that include adult supervision for children including teenagers, water handy to extinguish flames, and most importantly maintaining a safe distance.

"You have laws that prohibit fireworks that explode so you want to avoid letting your kids get their hands on stuff like that."

In Florida, if a firework explodes or leaves the ground, it is illegal. The ones you can buy at roadside vendors are considered "safe and sane.”

"Mostly the instructions are on the fireworks and if you'll follow those you'll be pretty safe."

When it comes to firework safety, a little common sense goes a long way. Georgia's laws are more restrictive than Florida’s. The Peach State is one of eight states that bans all consumer fireworks.

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Firework Safety Tips

  • Follow state guidelines and code.

  • In the state of Illinois, only sparklers and/or other novelties are legal.

  • Remember: The age limit for buying fireworks is 18.

  • ALL bangers are illegal for general sale.

  • Don’t buy fireworks if they are not marked as meeting BS 7114. They could be illegal imports.

  • Don’t attempt to use professional high-power fireworks, such as those used in organized displays. To the untrained, they are as lethal as hand grenades.

  • Keep fireworks in a closed box, take them out one at a time and put the top back on straight away.

  • Follow the instructions on each firework carefully - read them by torchlight and never by naked flame.

  • Light the end of the firework’s fuse at arm’s length, preferably with a safety firework lighter or fuse wick.

  • Never throw fireworks.

  • Don’t let off fireworks in a street or public place - It’s not only dangerous, it’s also an offense

  • Stand well back and never return to a firework once lit - it may go off in your face.

  • Never put fireworks in your pocket.

  • Keep pets indoors.

  • Never fool with fireworks!

Mishap Statistics

  • Sparklers are the second highest cause of fireworks injuries requiring trips to the emergency room. Sparklers can heat up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt gold.

  • From 1980-1994, fireworks accounted for 29 fires, 65 explosions and 114 deaths. The victims of these accidents ranged in ages from four months to 88-years-old.

  • Misuse caused 60 percent of injuries.

  • Data from the United States Eye Injury Registry shows that bystanders are more often injured by fireworks than operators themselves.

  • Forty-four percent of the injured are children ages 19-years-old and under.

  • On the 4th of July in a typical year, fireworks cause more fires in the U.S. than all other causes combined. But because most people encounter the risk of fireworks only once a year, many Americans do not realize how great that risk is.

Fireworks by Class

  • C Class - Consumer fireworks are determined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and regulated in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 16, Parts 1500-1507 and they are controlled on a state-by-state basis by the State Fire Marshal's Offices.

  • D Class - Display fireworks are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 27 and their use is regulated by NFPA 1123, Code for the Display of Fireworks.

Sources: http://www.hertsdirect.org, http://www.preventblindness.org, and
http://www.nfpa.org, contributed to this report.