Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 4, 2013

Fireworks fun includes taking safety precautions

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Fireworks are a traditional part of Fourth of July celebrations, but they’re dangerous if used improperly or carelessly. To reduce the chances for injuries, medical professionals are offering a few tips to observe.

Across the nation, approximately 200 people with fireworks-related injuries visit emergency rooms every day in July, especially when the Fourth of July holiday arrives. More than half the injuries are burns. Another 41 percent of the injuries are to hands and fingers, and 19 percent are to the head, face and ears.

Dr. Riel Sarno, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Bluefield Regional Medical Center, said he has seen fireworks injuries during his years at the hospital’s emergency room.

“Burns, mainly,” he said when asked to describe the injuries he has treated. “Not really explosion injuries. They’re mostly from sparklers and that kind of stuff; not necessarily like an explosion near their faces or blowing off their fingers.”

Another feature of many Fourth of July celebrations, alcohol, has been a factor in past fireworks injuries.

“I think sometimes they’re intoxicated,” Sarno said. “That’s why they think they can hold on to them (fireworks). It’s poor judgment. Who knows what they’re thinking. They think they can hold onto whatever they’re using longer than they should. Those are the kind of people who get snake-bitten as well.”

Firefighters and other professionals advise people not to use fireworks at home; instead, attend professional fireworks shows. Anyone who still wants to buy and use their own fireworks should use the following safety tips:

• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

• Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities including sparklers. Sparklers burn at a temperature of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.

• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.  Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

• After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

• Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.