Keep yourself and pets safe this Fourth of July weekend by following several tips from FirstEnergy, Youngstown-based Phantom Fireworks, and advocates for injury prevention, blindness prevention and pet safety.
FirstEnergy is reminding people to be cautious of potential electrical hazards associated with outdoor activities such as parades, barbeques and swimming.
Foil balloons and fireworks are two of the most common and festive ways to celebrate Independence Day. But FirstEnergy reminds that they can create safety issues and cause major damage to the electric system when they are used near power lines and electrical equipment.
Foil balloon metallic coating conducts electricity when they drift into power lines or electrical equipment. The onset of a dramatic increase in outages caused by adrift metallic balloons peaks in June or July, when warm weather takes celebrations and picnics outdoors. Over recent months, foil balloons were to blame for nearly 60 power outages across FirstEnergy’s six-state service area.
The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness and the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at the same time are reminding Ohioans about the dangers of backyard fireworks.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s newly released 2021 Fireworks Annual Report, an estimated 11,500 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries. An estimated 8,500 fireworks-related injuries, or 74 percent of people treated, occurred during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July holiday.
Injuries to children under the age of 15 accounted for 29 percent of the estimated firework-related injuries. The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers, an estimated 31 percent; legs, an estimated 15 percent; eyes, an estimated 14 percent or 1,610 eye injuries; head, face, and ears, an estimated 21 percent; trunk, an estimated 10 percent; and arms, an estimated 8 percent.
“Many parents believe the myth that these products can be used safely or that smaller fireworks such as bottle rockets and sparklers are fun and safe,” said Dr. Leah Middelberg, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital who specializes in injury prevention. “However, bottle rockets cause almost 60 percent of fireworks-related eye injuries and are the most common cause of fireworks-related structure fires. Sparklers burn at nearly 2,000 degrees, which can result in an instant skin burn and can easily ignite clothing. Two-thirds of sparkler-related injuries occur in children younger than 5 years.”
Youngstown-based Phantom Fireworks is the leading retailer of consumer fireworks in the U.S. and also has statistics — noting last year in the U.S. saw the greatest use of fireworks and the lowest fireworks-related injury rate ever recorded. It points out, from 1994 to 2021, there has been a 74.7 percent decrease in injuries per 100,000 pounds of consumer fireworks used in the U.S., while there has been a 265 percent increase in consumption. It states consumption has increased from 117 million pounds in 1994 to 428.8 million pounds in 2021, and injuries per 100,000 pounds of fireworks used during the same period dropped from 10.7 to 2.7.
Phantom Fireworks urges these safety guidelines, among others, be followed:
• Never let children handle, play with or light any fireworks. Only adults should handle and light the fireworks. They burn very hot and are intended to be handled only by adults.
• Do not consume any alcohol or drugs when handling and lighting fireworks. Impairment increases the possibility of misuse and injury to yourself or others.
• Follow your local and state laws regarding the possession and use of fireworks, and use good common sense. Read all fireworks safety tips, all directions, cautions, labels and warnings on each individual fireworks item to understand the product performance and hazards associated with them. Never attempt to procure or use professional 1.3G display fireworks without the proper permitting, license, insurance and approved shooting site.
• Purchase your fireworks from a reliable, licensed dealer. Do not use illegal explosives; do not alter any fireworks device; and do not attempt to make your own fireworks.
• Always use fireworks on a hard, flat and level surface to ensure the stability of the items. This is particularly important when using the taller items that produce a thrust upon ignition. Grass, gravel and sand surfaces are not suitable for any firework item, particularly those intended to be used in an upright position. If you are using fireworks on grass, gravel or sand, Phantom recommends that you lay down a strong piece of plywood for use as your hard, flat shooting surface.
• Place bricks on either side of an aerial repeater, tube and tall fountain to avoid “tip over.” Alternatively, you can bury your items half their height in the ground or in a bucket or pail filled with earth or sand. This will help stabilize the item during performances.
• Always keep the audience (particularly children) a safe distance from the launch or shooting site. Light the fireworks in a clear, open area away from buildings, vehicles overhead obstructions and shrubbery. A minimum clear distance between the launch site and your audience of 35 feet for fountains and other ground-based items and 150 feet for all aerial items is recommended. You should avoid lighting your fireworks in any area where there is dry grass, dry brush or any flammable items that could catch fire. Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
More safety guidelines from Phantom are found at fireworks.com/education-and-safety/safety-tips.
The Humane Society of the U.S. reminds that pets are more sensitive to loud noises, flashing lights and strong smells. On the Fourth, and other days people are likely to set off fireworks, it’s best to leave your pets safely indoors, preferably with a radio or TV turned on to soften jarring noises. If you’re unable to leave your pet unattended at home, keep them leashed and under your direct control at all times.
If your pet is scared by fireworks, ask a veterinarian for help, the Humane Society urges. There are medications and techniques that might help alleviate your pet’s fear and anxiety.
All pets, even those kept indoors full-time, should always wear collars with ID tags. Indoor-only pets can become so frightened during fireworks displays that they may take desperate measures to escape the noise, including breaking through windows or door screens. Ensure that pets are microchipped and that the chip is properly registered with current contact information.
If a pet does become lost, contact the local animal control and surrounding shelters immediately. If you find a lost pet, either take it to the address on its tag or bring it to a local animal shelter so it can be reunited with family.
Eric Rathburn, of Columbus, was injured by a firework misfire during a pre-July 4 party in 2009. The firework flew through the crowd, hitting his glasses and knocking him backward to the ground. The force broke his glasses, cutting his right eye and causing permanent damage.
“My glasses had flown off of me as I hit the ground. It felt like someone had punched me in the eye. After that I did not see anything,” Rathburn said. “I no longer watch any fireworks. I tell everyone I know that they should stay away from backyard fireworks.”
“For many of us, fireworks are a matter of quality of life,” said Nichole Coleman, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Findlay. “The issue of fireworks and the unexpected noises and flashes that come with them are of real concern to me, personally, and many other veterans — particularly, the estimated 100,000 Ohio combat veterans — who have returned from military service with post-traumatic stress.”
The size of the fireworks product is no indication of the amount of the explosive material inside it.
The major causes of injuries are due to delayed or early fireworks explosions, errant flight paths of rockets, debris from aerial fireworks and mishandling of sparklers.
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