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Fourth of July Safety: 10 tips to protect you and your loved ones

Tennesseans usually think of the Fourth of July as a day to grill out, spend time with family and shoot off fireworks. Many people don’t realize the holiday is also famous for another reason—it’s one of the busiest days of the year for hospital emergency departments, partly because of injuries related to fireworks. 

There were more than 5,000 firework related injuries in the weeks close to the Fourth of July in 2012, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The majority of injuries affected the hands, face and eyes, with an alarming 17 percent of firework injuries resulting in permanent vision loss. 

Knowing the danger, what can concerned parents do to help their children have a fun, injury-free Fourth of July? The first step is to ensure all minors have close adult supervision when handling fireworks. Unsupervised children represent a vast majority of firework related injuries.   

Next, follow these 10 tips to protect yourself and your loved ones: 

  • Wear safety glasses: Eye injuries are the most common type of firework related injuries. Wearing proper protection greatly reduces your risk of getting hurt.  
  • Never use fireworks indoors: Using fireworks indoors can cause a house fire.    
  • Have water available when setting off fireworks: Fireworks remain hot after use, so soak them in water to prevent accidental burns. Keeping a bucket of water or a hose nearby also means you’re ready in case of a fire. 
  • Know which fireworks you are buying: Legal fireworks will always be labeled. Avoid fireworks that are not labeled, as they may be illegal (and thus they are more likely to malfunction). Similarly, avoid purchasing fireworks in brown paper packaging. Often, these fireworks are professional grade explosives that are not meant for recreational use.      
  • Never point fireworks at another person: Aiming, pointing or throwing fireworks at another person can result in serious injury. 
  • Never consume alcohol while igniting fireworks. Alcohol is a flammable liquid, so keep it away from fireworks.   
  • Light fireworks with care: Never lean over fireworks as you light them, and only light one firework at a time. Also, be certain to read the label for additional lighting instructions.     
  • Never use homemade fireworks/explosives. Homemade fireworks and explosives are extremely dangerous. Similarly, do not tamper with or alter store bought fireworks. 
  • Make sure the area is free of flammable objects before igniting fireworks. Fireworks can emit sparks before, during and even after use. Light them on a hard, flat surface that is away from trees, bushes or other combustible materials. 
  • If a firework fails to go off after igniting, never attempt to re-light it. Re-lighting after a firework fails to go off can cause it to explode. Instead, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then place the firework in a bucket of water.    

By following these 10 safety precautions, you will greatly reduce the risk of firework-related injuries. However, remember that fireworks are explosives, so accidents can happen even when they are handled with care. The safest route is to watch professional shows and avoid consumer fireworks completely.  

If you or someone you are with experience a firework related injury, seek immediate medical help. 

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