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Warning: Fireworks Are Dangerous (and Can Be Traumatic for Some)

Image of Picture of fireworks. Click to open a larger version of the image. A fireworks show marks the conclusion of the Patriot Festival, July 3, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. (Photo by: Airman 1st Class Erick Requadt, 23rd Wing Public Affairs).

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With the 4th of July weekend on the horizon, many revelers will be adding fireworks to their holiday celebration — raising a host of safety concerns that could potentially ruin a party or cause serious injuries.

Fireworks safety is crucial for a happy and light-filled experience. The most important rule of thumb is to never mix alcohol and fireworks. Sloppiness can lead to injuries like losing a hand or an eye.

"Every year, about 10,000 people are treated for injuries in hospital emergency departments due to the mishandling of live, misfired, and waste consumer fireworks," said Michael Pritchard, a United States Fire Administration branch chief with the National Fire Programs.

"In addition, fires resulting from fireworks cause over $100 million in direct property damage," he said.

Some good advice is to "take part in and enjoy professional fireworks. You get the fun and the spectacle without taking on the risks," said Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Peay, 57th Wing Weapons Safety Manager at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

If you plan to set off your own fireworks, be sure to read and heed the warnings and instructions that come with the fireworks, Peay said.

Fireworks and PTSD don't mix well

Fireworks may be very unsettling to wounded warriors, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder, said Joseph Nieves, who works as a new media manager in the public affairs office at Fort George Meade, Maryland.

"As a veteran struggling with PTSD, abrupt bangs and pops often provide me with a jolt of anxiety, usually for a brief moment before remembering that I am in a relatively safe place and it's probably something mundane," Nieves said.

However, "around the July 4th holidays, we know that fireworks are a national pastime for celebrating, so it's not usually a surprise, and that hit of anxiety isn't present. But, if you are a person dealing with PTSD symptoms and hearing a series of pops and booms are a problem, try using noise cancelling headphones to drown out or muffle the sounds," he suggested.

"This might be a way for you to experience the holiday celebration without the anxiety or fear that the fireworks may cause," Nieves said. "It may also be the path to being able to enjoy the holiday again like you did before you experienced the events that led to your dealing with PTSD."

Fireworks Safety Tips

  1. Always have an adult present. Do not let children set off fireworks
  2. Check your local laws and drought conditions to make sure fireworks are allowed in your area.
  3. Keep your distance once a firework is lit and approach duds with caution. Do not relight them.
  4. Direct fireworks such as Roman candles and bottle rockets away from buildings.
  5. Do not point fireworks at other people.
  6. Don't attempt to light more than one firework at a time.
  7. Younger children should not be allowed to hold sparklers no matter how much fun they are. (The temperature of a typical sparkler is 1800°F to 3000°F, enough to burn skin and ignite clothing.)
  8. Always keep a bucket of water, a fire extinguisher or a garden hose handy when fireworks are involved.
  9. Thoroughly douse used fireworks in water before discarding.
  10. Keep your pets inside during fireworks displays. They can become anxious and frightened and may try to run away.
  11. Be a good neighbor. Alert your neighbors if you plan to shoot off fireworks so they can put their animals inside.


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