Red Cross recommends leaving fireworks fun to professionals

From Staff Reports

   The East Tennessee area traditions of parades, cookouts, and fireworks for Independence Day celebrate the summer season and the Fourth of July holiday.
   However, fireworks can turn a joyful celebration into a painful memory when children and adults are injured while using consumer fireworks.
   The American Red Cross along with the Centers for Disease Control, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the National Fire Protection Association suggests individuals view a public display of fireworks and avoid consumer-use fireworks. Consumer-use fireworks are fireworks purchased for use at home or private use. These fireworks are extremely dangerous and account for numerous injuries each year.
   "To make your holiday celebrations safer, happier and less likely for injuries, watch a display by professionals. There are numerous public displays scheduled to enjoy in our area," says Michelle Shelton, director of health services for the Kingsport Area/Hawkins County Chapter of the Red Cross.
   In 2002, 8,800 people were treated at a hospital emergency room for fireworks-related injuries. More than 60 percent of those injuries were burns to the hands, arms, fingers, eyes or face. In addition to the injuries sustained, fireworks can cause life-threatening residential fires.
   Ironically, several local volunteer fire departments sell consumer-use fireworks as a fund-raiser despite the fact they could end up responding to fire caused by the products.
   "Many people feel that fireworks are harmless and allow young children to play with sparklers. It's difficult to imagine the high temperatures that sparklers reach and how easy it is to ignite clothing," states Shelton. "According to a study released by the National Fire Protection Association, 33 percent of injuries were related to sparklers. Most parents are unaware of the hidden danger with sparklers."
   Although the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to leave the job to professionals, hundreds of area residents will still participate in the use of fireworks at their home. The Red Cross offers the following recommendations:
   * Do not allow children to play with fireworks under any circumstances. Children cannot understand the danger involved and cannot act appropriately in case of emergency.
   * Older children should only be permitted to use fireworks under close adult supervision. Do not allow any running or horseplay.
   * Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
   * Light fireworks outdoors in a clear area on a smooth, flat surface away from houses, dry leaves, or grass and flammable materials.
   * Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that don't go off.
   * Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
   * Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
   * Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
   * Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
   * Store fireworks in a dry, cool place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
   * Observe local laws.
   * Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
   * Don't experiment with homemade fireworks.
   Fireworks are a tradition for many families but this year go a step further and take a few minutes to talk with your family about the dangers so that everyone is better prepared if an emergency arises.