Don't be 4th of July Casualty

With the 4th of July right around the corner it’s important to be vigilant when it comes to fireworks displays. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), each year there are about 10,000 firework-related injuries are seen in ERs across the country, with half of those being kids. 

And it’s not just on the fourth of July! The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that over two-thirds of injuries from fireworks occur from June 19 to July 19. The best way to be safe and still enjoy the holiday is to leave the fireworks up to the professionals.

However, if you insist on doing it yourself, make sure you buy legal fireworks as well as make sure it is legal in your state. And here are some other safety tips to remember:

  1. If you are going to do it yourself, buy fireworks from a reputable dealer and read the labels.
  2. Light only one at a time.
  3. Keep a bucket of water and fire extinguisher handy
  4. Don’t give any, including sparklers which heat up to blow torch temperatures, to young children
  5. Never light them in a container which can explode and cause flying fragments and shrapnel
  6. Never try to re-light or handle fireworks that don’t go off or malfunction.

Other fire hazards this season are gel fuel fire pots and tiki torches, which you have probably seen at many outdoor parties.

Fires caused by gel fuel are very hard to put out. The old adage “stop, drop and roll” does not work if your clothes ignite with gel fuel.

These fires can only be put out with dry chemicals such as those in fire extinguishers. These fires also burn very hot and do not create typical orange flames. This makes these gel fuel fires very difficult to see. Often people then try to add more fuel to a full hot torch or firepot, which then splatters causing severe burns. Only add gel fuel to an empty container that is cool to the touch.

Lastly, make sure you keep all young children and pets away from containers burning gel fuels. 

We will be there if you need us, but, these tips should help ensure you celebrate your holiday with family and friends instead of your local emergency department staff!

Leigh Vinocur, MD, FACEP is an emergency physician, health educator and coach in Maryland.

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