Ah, the sights and sounds of summer. The squeals of kids running through the sprinkler. The crackle of hamburgers sizzling on the grill. The smell of freshly baked apple pie. The sound of —
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
It’s that time of year, folks. When we deck ourselves out in red, white, and blue, fire up the barbecue, and detonate small explosives. Because nothing says liberty and freedom like pyrotechnics. ‘Murica, right?
Personally, I have nothing against fireworks, per se. I’ve been known to let me kids stay up later than usual, sprawl out blankets, or even climb on top of our roof to watch the local fireworks show. But seriously, if you’re going to use fireworks this summer, pleasepleaseplease, be smart and don’t be an asshole.
Newsflash: Fireworks are dangerous. I don’t care if they’re sold on the side of the road or in a big warehouse off the interstate. That doesn’t mean they aren’t serious business, and people need to be extra careful when using them. According to the U.S. Consumer Safety and Protection Commission, in 2015 alone, nearly 12,000 people were injured by fireworks and 11 people died (!!!) in non-work-related fireworks accidents. About 8,000 injuries happened in the month-long period from mid-June to mid-July when fireworks are most popular.
And if you think those little sparklers and bottle rockets are completely safe, think again. Sparklers were responsible for 1,900 emergency room visits, and bottle rockets caused 800 injuries worthy of a trip to the ER. So, like mama always says: Be careful and make good choices, folks.
This should go without saying, but don’t let young children play with fireworks. If your kids are going to use sparklers (and come on, what’s childhood without waving a flaming stick of fire in your hand?), take appropriate precautions and stay close by with a watchful eye on them.
Don’t set off explosives if you’re drunk. And only buy legal fireworks (state law varies) — don’t even try to make your own, for obvious reasons.
It’s also a good idea to wear eye protection, and the CPSC also advises against buying fireworks packaged in brown paper because that can mean the fireworks were made for professional displays and might be dangerous to consumers.
A couple other things: Don’t try to relight a dud, and never light more than one at a time.
Fire safety is also super-important when using fireworks. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to more 50,000 fires caused by fireworks each year. Have a bucket of water nearby, and point fireworks away from homes and a safe distance away from brush, leaves, and flammable materials. And before you toss your used fireworks, make sure to douse them with water.
Also, don’t be a freaking jerk. Just because you can set off fireworks at 11 p.m., that doesn’t mean you should. Keep Fido indoors since the loud noises can hurt pets’ sensitive ears. And if you live next door to a family with young kids, the non-asshole thing to do would be to hold off on the late-night pyrotechnics — or at least give the family a heads up so they can book that last-minute road trip for the weekend or at least have ample time to curse your name while their baby wails and their dog barks all night.
Believe it or not, it is possible to celebrate America’s birthday and enjoy Fourth of July festivities like setting shit on fire safely and respectfully. As long as we use a modicum of common sense and don’t act like an ass, we can avoid setting ourselves ablaze and pissing off the entire neighborhood.