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SALEM COMMUNITY HOSPITAL..In a flash, fireworks can become disastrous

June 24, 2012
Salem News

With July 4th rapidly approaching, communities across our nation are planning to celebrate Independence Day. But in a flash, backyard fireworks can turn a fun Fourth of July into a disaster.

The U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend that fireworks be used only by trained professionals.

"Fireworks are very dangerous and unpredictable, especially in the hands of amateurs," explained John Dawson, D.O., Assistant Medical Director of Salem Community Hospital's Emergency Department. "In 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for injuries related to fireworks. About 40 percent of the victims were bystanders, and more than half of those injured were children.

"The majority of firework-related injuries happen at family or private parties. The most common injuries sustained from fireworks include burns to the hands and face, lacerations from flying fragments including glass or metal, loss of a finger or portion of the digit from holding an explosive while it is lit, and eye injuries. About one-third of fireworks-related injuries each year involve the eye."

There are three types of fireworks that keep hospital emergency rooms busy during this holiday period: bottle rockets, firecrackers, and sparklers. "One of the reasons fireworks injuries continue to occur is because people just don't consider how dangerous these devices can be," Dr. Dawson continued. "There is an inaccurate perception that some fireworks, like sparklers, are safe.

"Bottle rockets and firecrackers can fly in any direction prior to exploding, and a bottle rocket can reach speeds of up to 150 mph. Sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil and can burn at temperatures up to 1,800F, which is hot enough to melt gold. Three sparklers burning together can generate the same heat as a blowtorch."

Fact Box

Fireworks Facts

- On July 4th in a typical year, more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, representing more than any other cause of fires.

- In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, representing approximately $36 million in direct property damage.

Source: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), June 2012

Ohio law permits sparklers and other types of novelty fireworks known as exempted 1.4G fireworks, such as: snaps, glow snakes and smoke bombs. While legal, these types of fireworks can still pose serious safety hazards, including the risk of severe burns; injuries to the hands, eyes and face; and even blindness or hearing loss. In addition, most fireworks require a source of flame ignition, creating other hazards associated with supplying children with matches or lighters.

"Fireworks are very dangerous and unpredictable, especially in the hands of amateurs," Dr. Dawson advised.

Several organizations like the CDC and NFPA recommend that families leave fireworks in the hands of trained professionals. However, if adults do choose to purchase and set off fireworks, they should follow certain safety guidelines, including:

- Adults only: Never allow children to handle or light fireworks. Children 15 years old and younger account for over half of fireworks-related injuries annually.

- Be prepared: When using fireworks, always have a bucket of water or a hose nearby for quickly extinguishing an accidental fire or preventing burns. It's also a good idea to soak all used fireworks in water prior to throwing them away.

- Cover your eyes: It is advised to wear protective eyewear when using fireworks. The danger from flying particles or the force and heat from the explosion can be a potential threat to a person's vision.

- Stand back: Fireworks have been known to easily backfire or discharge in the wrong direction. Be sure to have plenty of space around you when lighting them to prevent accidents, and only light them outdoors.

- Stay alert: Studies show that often times, bystanders are the ones injured instead of the actual fireworks users. If you are not the one lighting the fireworks, make sure you are at a safe distance and never standing in what may be the path of a firework explosion.

- Never hold and light: Never hold fireworks while lighting them, as many injuries occur in the form of burns to the hand. Even small fireworks like sparklers can produce serious burns.

- Leave the duds alone: Never attempt to relight a dud, as it may suddenly ignite and discharge. Always douse an apparent dud in water and throw it away.

- One at a time: Never light more than one firework at a time.

- Keep your pockets free: It is dangerous to carry fireworks in your pocket. The friction can cause the fireworks to spontaneously ignite leading to serious injuries and/or burns. Also, keep burning sparklers away from clothing and other flammable objects.

Source: National Council on Fireworks Safety; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

"The safest way to prevent firework-related injuries is to enjoy public fireworks displays, conducted by trained professionals," Dr. Dawson concluded.

John Dawson, D.O., is the assistant director of the Emergency Department at Salem Community Hospital, and is also Chief of the Hospital's medical staff.



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