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Keep Fourth of July celebrations safe
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Keep Fourth of July celebrations safe

For more than 200 years, Americans have enjoyed fireworks as part of their Fourth of July celebrations.

But experts warn revelers to think twice and keep safety in mind before buying or blasting their own fireworks this year.

Lisa Gold, MD, a staff pediatrician with Franciscan St Anthony Health-Crown Point, said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 45 percent of all injuries happening around Independence Day due to fireworks involve children 14 and younger.

The best idea for fireworks safety is to listen to the American Academy of Pediatrics and avoid home fireworks by “sitting back, relaxing and letting the professionals do the show,” she said.

If families feel they must make fireworks part of their celebration, they should follow some safety guidelines.

When planning a home fireworks show, parents should be prepared and make sure spectators understand their rules. The lighting area should be a flat, stable surface to avoid fireworks falling over and shooting toward the audience.

The firework area should also be kept a safe distance from the spectators and in a clear area away from dry leaves, field, grass and flammable materials including unused fireworks.

Families should have a water hose or bucket of water nearby for emergencies or to soak fireworks that do not ignite or malfunction.

“If older children are allowed to use fireworks, it must be done with adult supervision,” Gold said. Even snap type fireworks and bottle rockets can cause injury.

“The firework that is associated with the most injuries are the firecrackers - second are rockets and third sparklers.”

When it comes to sparklers, times have changed, she said.

“Be safe and light one at a time. If you do give a sparkler to a child, they must be under adult supervisor at all times. Do not run around with the sparkler. Sparklers remain very hot even after they are spent out. After all these rules they don’t sound like much fun, do they? Leave them at the store.”

Bill Howe, battalion chief with Schererville Fire Department, said this year will be a big fireworks season because of the Fourth of July falling on a weekend.

"We’ll have fireworks going off all weekend," he said. He advises people to supervise children and follow instructions on the fireworks packages.

"When it says it’s recommended for adults or certain age groups, if you follow that and always have adult supervision when lighting fireworks, we would be way ahead of the game."

Anyone younger than 13 or 14 should not be around when fireworks are being lit, he said.

"Most of our accidents and injuries involving fireworks are some sort of a burn, whether it's a fountain or sparkler," he said. Users hold the fireworks too close to their own bodies or to others nearby.

With any type of burn, the best strategy is to cool the area with water until help arrives.

"If they stepped on a hot piece of sparkler, you cool it with cool water until the burning sensation is gone."

Metal sparklers pose a burn risk when users grab the wrong end after they have burnt out or step on them with bare feet.

When it comes to larger fireworks, Howe said that if a firework shoots into the air 150 feet, spectators should be 15 to 20 feet away from it in case it ignites on the ground.

"The propellant that shoots it into the sky has a big charge," he said.

He also warns again checking on fireworks that don't ignite.

"Wait 15 to 20 minutes, then knock it over," he said. Never attempt to relight because the fuse will be shorter and may not allow enough time for the person igniting it to get out of the way.

There are also safeguards to consider when purchasing fireworks.

“Hoosiers should buy fireworks only from a dealer displaying a valid Indiana fireworks sales permit,” said Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson, in a news release. Purchasers should ask to see a dealer's permit if one is not displayed.

Fireworks cannot be sold to or purchased by anyone younger than 18, and only 1.4G consumer fireworks can be sold. Any other types of fireworks are illegal for consumer sales or purchases in Indiana, and may be more explosive.

For more information on fireworks safety, visit GetPrepared.in.gov.

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