Summer comes with many reasons to celebrate—graduations, family vacations, barbecues, and of course, the fourth of July. Although COVID-19 has put a damper on some of the ways we typically mark these occasions, fireworks continue to be popular. With the number of professional fireworks shows down nearly 80 percent in New Hampshire compared to last year, more people are purchasing consumer fireworks to bring the celebration to their own backyards. This includes people who may not have prior experience lighting them and may not be familiar with local ordinances or realize how to avoid getting seriously hurt. Regardless of whether you are new to fireworks, there are some critical things to know to keep yourself and those around you safe.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that approximately 10,000 fireworks related injuries are treated each year in United States emergency rooms. Here are tips for keeping you—and your family—safe during the most popular season for fireworks.
Before using fireworks, be informed to prevent injuries
“We continue to underscore the importance of learning how to stay safe and prevent injuries to yourself and your family and friends,” says Phil Biron, fireworks inspector/fire protection specialist with the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office. “This includes taking the time to read the manufacturer’s instructions and talking with retailers about what to expect from each firework.”
The “Three B’s”
Because the sale and use of certain permissible fireworks is legal in the state of New Hampshire, it is important to address the rules and safety considerations should an adult choose to use them. The New Hampshire Division of Fire Safety, Office of the State Fire Marshal, recommends following the “Three B’s” for safety: Be Prepared; Be Safe; Be Responsible.”
- Know the laws. You must be 21 years of age to purchase, possess and use permissible fireworks in the state of New Hampshire. You must be on your own property or have written permission to use someone else’s property or be in the landowner’s presence. You must also follow local ordinances, which may have further restrictions on fireworks use in your area.
- Do your research. Make sure you are using New Hampshire permissible fireworks. You should only purchase fireworks from a licensed retailer, where sales associates are trained to answer your questions. Follow all manufacturer safety instructions and if you have questions, ask your retailer for help.
- Prep your area. Call your local fire department to check on current fire danger conditions. Make sure there is enough space from structures and make safety preparations, such as having a fire extinguisher, hose and buckets of water nearby.
- Protect yourself. Always wear eye and ear protection, gloves and clothing that cannot easily ignite (e.g. no nylon).
- Keep spectators at a safe distance. Each firework device has a specific safety distance listed in its instructions. All fireworks should be set off outdoors and away from anything that can burn or easily ignite. Light only one device at a time and move away quickly.
- Be considerate. Not everyone enjoys fireworks. Veterans, pets, livestock or your neighbor may not appreciate the sounds and effects of fireworks. Check with neighbors before making any plans for firework activity.
- Stay cautious. Devices that don’t fire are extremely dangerous. If a firework does not discharge, keep away for 10 minutes or more, then ensure that the firework has been filled with water or placed in a bucket of water.
- Clean up. Clean up firework debris when finished. Make sure any debris or items used to light fireworks (matches, lighters) are secured and out of the reach of children.
Remember - There are no “minor” fireworks
Among the top three most injury causing devices are firecrackers and bottle rockets. Sparklers can be just as unsafe as any other firework, burning at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.The diagram to the right shows just how hot that can be. Sparklers can easily burn little hands, and have caused children’s clothing to catch on fire. Leave the sparklers for adults to handle and send the kids off with glow sticks or novelty LED lights.
“We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable summer, and being informed is a crucial. Please follow these tips and make sure you only light fireworks when it is safe and where it is legal,” says State Fire Marshal Paul J. Parisi.
For more information regarding fireworks safety, check out the following resources or vist Safe Kids.
- List of community restrictions in New Hampshire (by town)
- Consumer Fireworks Safety Video
- Consumer Fireworks Safety Pamphlet