Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 9:07am
As sure as dandelions crop up in the spring, the onset of summer brings a surge of fireworks stands in anticipation of the 4th of July holiday.
The consumer fireworks industry has created the phrase "safe and sane" to refer to these smaller explosives. "Safe and Sane" usually means fireworks that do not fly or explode, typically fountains, sparklers, wheels, smoke and snake items, strobes, ground spinners, and novelty fireworks that do not travel. Snaps and caps are usually considered "Safe and Sane" fireworks.
The City of Madison further restricts consumer fireworks within the City limits to sparklers, snakes, snaps, caps and party poppers. These provisions within the City ordinance have helped to keep fireworks-related injuries to a minimum over the years.
But the truth is that the concept of "safe and sane" fireworks is an oxymoron. In an article written for the International Fire Chiefs Association, Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal for the City of Port Orange (Fla.) Department of Fire & Rescue Christopher Weir, EFO, writes:
Look at the reported injuries each year from these "safe and sane" products and one may jump to a quick conclusion that this is smoke-and-mirrors marketing. Mind you that these statistics are just the reported injuries. No one can quantify the actual numbers of those injured, but we can venture an estimate of up to 25% above reported injuries.
In a 2013 report on fireworks, the NFPA reported that 89% of the fireworks injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms involved fireworks that Federal regulations permit consumers to use. In 2011, fireworks were directly involved in 17,800 reported fires, resulting in direct damage estimated at $32 million dollars; this includes 1,200 structural fires, 400 vehicle fires and 16,300 outside and other fires.
One statistic that rarely changes over the years is that children and young adults suffer a large share of the injuries reported. In 2012, CPSC stated that 44% of the reported injuries from consumer pyrotechnics were children under the age of 19.
Many communities bordering Madison have differing ordinances governing the use of fireworks, but Roman candles, fountains, bottle rockets, firecrackers, and other devices sold at nearby roadside stands are not permitted within the City. Individuals found to be using fireworks in violation of City ordinances face fines in excess of $300.
Although permitted by city ordinance, sparklers and snakes still present a fire and burn hazard. Please use these devices with caution. Only light them on a non-combustible surface like concrete. Dispose of them in a bucket of water and make sure they are completely cool before discarding them in the trash.
Better still, don’t purchase or use fireworks at all. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by trained professionals.
- Mike Dibble, (608) 266-5959, firstname.lastname@example.org