Fireworks Safety

Be Safe! Enjoy fireworks from a safe distance this 4th of July!

The tradition of celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks began with the celebration of the very first Independence Day in 1777. Today, fireworks light up the night skies from coast to coast as Americans commemorate their independence. Firework displays can range from backyard celebrations with family to city-sponsored spectacles viewed by thousands. Though these patriotic displays inspire awe in children and adults alike, thousands of people are injured every year while using fireworks.

Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks, which include devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death. Both federal and state governments have enacted tougher legislation designed to restrict firework use. As a reminder, all fireworks, even state approved "safe and sane" fireworks are ILLEGAL in Santa Clara County.  These measures have decreased the number of injuries and fatalities, but the numbers of injuries and deaths from fireworks annually are still much too high.

The following information emphasizes that the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to leave it to the experts and attend an outdoor public display conducted by specially trained professionals.

Fireworks Injury Statistics

In 2012, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a study of fireworks related injuries from June 22 through July 22. Here is what they found:

  1. 200 people on average go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday.
  2. Every year over 10,000 people crowd our emergency rooms with fireworks-related injuries. The estimated cost of the injuries exceeds $100 million dollars annually.
  3. 74% of all fireworks injuries are to males.
  4. Most fireworks injuries occur to the face (19%), eyes (17%), and hands (41%).

Safety Tips

The safest and most effective way to prevent fireworks-related injuries and deaths is to leave all fireworks displays to trained professionals and attend an outdoor public display. If you live in an area where consumer fireworks (safe and sane fireworks) are legal, then please follow these safety tips:

  1. Follow Federal and State firework laws. Every state has rules and regulations concerning the use, possession, and distribution of all types of fireworks. Knowing the laws in your state can keep you safe, prevent fines, and protect you from purchasing unsafe or illegal fireworks. View updated laws for every state concerning fireworks.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Use fireworks in clear and open areas that are clear of any obstructions. Also, be sure that the area where fireworks will be used is clear of dry, potentially flammable grass, wood, or debris. It is also recommended that you monitor your state’s wildfire warnings and make sure there isn’t a fire weather watch in effect. These warnings occur during extended periods of dry weather and higher than average wind speeds. During these conditions lighting fireworks could lead to potentially lethal wildfires. 
  3. Only adults should use fireworks. A majority of fireworks-related injuries happen to children under the age of 15.  Understanding the risks fireworks pose to children and the importance of having adults present to handle fireworks can greatly decrease injuries and deaths.
  4. Light fireworks on flat surfaces. Using a flat surface is extremely important when lighting fireworks. If the area where you are using fireworks is uneven, there is the potential they could tip over and shoot off horizontally, which could result in an injury to a person, property damage, or fires.
  5. Keep a fire extinguisher ready. Have a fire extinguisher nearby. When using fireworks there should be at least one person assigned the duty of operating the fire extinguisher in case something should go wrong.
  6. Store and dispose of fireworks safely. Do not store fireworks for extended periods of time. When storing fireworks keep them in a cool dry place AND out of the reach of children. Once a firework is used it should be allowed to rest for 15 to 20 minutes and then placed in a bucket of water to soak thoroughly. After the rest and soak period, they can be safely disposed of in a regular trash receptacle. Both of these steps are important because if fireworks are not soaked properly there is a potential for heat to be trapped inside of them and they can reignite and cause trash fires. Also, be careful when cleaning up debris from used fireworks since certain parts may still be extremely hot, combustible, or sharp.
  7. Keep your distance. It is important to stand a safe distance away from lit fireworks, including before, during, and after the launch. It is also important to keep a safe distance away in case a firework is a dud or malfunctions since in some of these instances there will be a delayed launch. It is recommended that all spectators be 30 feet away from all fountain style fireworks or anything that emits sparks.
  8. Do not experiment with fireworks. A significant number of injuries and deaths associated with fireworks come from tampering with the original design of the firework. Occasionally individuals will combine the explosive material from inside fireworks in an attempt to create larger, more powerful fireworks. This is extremely dangerous and often leads to unpredictable and hazardous results.

Fireworks Safety Fact Sheet: English

List of Santa Clara County Professional Fireworks Displays

NFPA urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, enjoy a public display conducted by trained professionals.

Flood Protection & Sandbag Information

BEFORE A FLOOD
  • Prepare a family disaster plan for floods, earthquakes and fires. Make an emergency kit for your home and for your car with emergency supplies such as a flashlight, batteries, water and non-perishable food. Move insurance policies, documents and other valuables to a safe deposit box.
  • Be aware of the locations of streams and drainage channels in your neighborhood.
  • Learn how to turn off utilities to your home and keep your car’s gas tank full so you won’t be stranded.
  • Learn the best route to high ground to avoid flood waters.
  • The smartest thing you can do to prepare for floods is purchase flood insurance.
DURING A FLOOD
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur and move immediately to higher ground.
  • Tune to radio stations KCBS (740 AM) or KSJO (92.3 FM) for emergency information, traffic updates and instructions.
  • If you must evacuate, turn off utilities at the main switches or valves. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Evacuation is easier and safer before floodwaters become too deep.
  • Try to avoid walking through moving water. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you and to aid in balance.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car immediately and move to higher ground. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away. A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pick-ups.
AFTER A FLOOD
  • Listen for news reports on whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to your power company.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Never try to walk, swim, drive or play in floodwater.
  • Stay out of any building that is surrounded by floodwaters. Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got damaged by water. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.

Sandbag Locations

Sandbag Locations within Santa Clara County 
Sandbag Map (1/2017): A printable (pdf) version of this information, with a location map, times of operation, and a wet weather checklist

Santa Clara Valley Water District Sandbag Stations

FILLED SANDBAGS - Available late November through April. At certain times, sites may be stocked with sand and empty bags. Bring your own shovel. Sites open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bags may be heavy, consider bringing assistance to load bags and only take 20 to 30 bags per vehicle.

  1. Palo Alto: 1925 Embarcadero Road, adjacent to Palo Alto Air Terminal
  2. Alviso: northeast corner of Gold and Catherine streets.  
  3. Alviso site #2: behind George Mayne Elementary School, 5030 N. 1st Street, (entrance on Wilson Way behind school)
  4. San Jose: City Mabury (Service) Yard, 1404 Mabury Road, San Jose, CA 95133
  5. San Jose: City Central Service Yard, 1661 Senter Road at Phelan Ave., San Jose, CA 95122
  6. San Jose: Santa Clara Valley Water District Winfield Warehouse,  Winfield Boulevard between Blossom Hill Road and Coleman Avenue, San Jose, CA 9512
  7. Morgan Hill: El Toro Fire Station, 18300 Old Monterey Road

Heat Related Illness Prevention

HeatIllnessIconKeep Cool and Protect Yourself from the Heat

The warm weather is upon us and the Santa Clara County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) System, Santa Clara County Fire Chiefs Association, and the Public Health Department offer the following tips for hot weather safety. Below are a few simple tips that can help you, your family, and your friends enjoy the warm weather and outdoor activities while lessening your chances of experiencing heat-related illness.

SAFETY TIPS
  1. Drink plenty of liquids. Drink water and sports drinks—even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar, because they cause your body to lose fluids.
  2. Limit physical activity. Avoid physical activity during the hottest time of the day—10am-3pm.
  3. NEVER leave people or pets in a closed, parked car. Always check the back seat of the vehicle prior to walking away. 
  4. Stay in air-conditioned areas. Help keep cool by spending time at malls, libraries, movie theatres, and community centers.
  5. Cool off by taking a bath or shower. Cool, plain water baths or moist towels work best. Do not cool children in alcohol baths.
  6. Wear cool clothing. Lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing can help you keep cool. Cotton clothes are good because they let sweat evaporate.
  7. Do not bundle babies. Babies do not handle heat well because their sweat glands are not fully developed. Do not put them in blankets or heavy clothing.
  8. Cover your head. Wear a wide-brimmed, vented hat or use an umbrella when outdoors because your head absorbs heat easily.
  9. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when outdoors.
  10. Rest often in shady areas. Find shady places to cool down when outdoors.

2015 Santa Clara County Cooling Centers

Heat Related Illness - English
Heat Related Illness - Spanish
Heat Related Illness - Vietnamese

Hot Weather Safety Poster - English
Hot Weather Safety Poster - Spanish
Hot Weather Safety Poster - Vietnamese

Holiday Safety

Trees

  • Keep your tree away from fireplaces, wood burning stoves, portable heaters or other sources of heat.
  • Place the tree in an area where it will not block your escape path in the event of an emergency.

Fresh Trees

  • Choose a fresh tree. Do not buy a tree with shedding needles.
  • Before mounting your tree in a sturdy stand, cut 1" from the trunk and immediately submerge in water. This keeps sap from clogging water flow.
  • Fill tree stand with water daily (or more often as needed) so the tree does not dry out. The average 6-foot tree has a 4-inch diameter trunk and can consume as much as 1 gallon of water per day.

Lights

  • Use only lights that have the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.
  • Carefully inspect each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Discard any damaged light sets.
  • Check packaging to determine the maximum number of strings that may be connected together.
  • Use only extension cords that have a built-in circuit breaker.
  • Do not run cords under throw rugs or carpets.
  • Check labels on lights before using them outdoors. Never use indoor lights outside.
  • Always unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house.

Candles, Matches and Lighters

  • Never use burning candles on your tree or as part of wreaths.
  • Keep candles away from decorations, drapes, furniture and other combustibles.
  • Use sturdy, non-combustible candleholders that can collect dripping wax and won't tip over.
  • Purchase only child-resistant lighters.
  • Always keep matches, lighters and candles out of the reach of children, and don't leave children unattended in a room with lit candles. Teach young children to bring matches and lighters to an adult.
  • Always extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.

Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and Heating Equipment

  • Have your chimney and vents inspected annually before burning fire in the fireplace.
  • Keep all combustible materials away from fireplaces and wood stoves. Keep portable heaters a minimum of 3 feet from furniture, drapes, blankets and other combustibles.
  • Install a spark arrester with a 1/2" mesh screen on chimney or stovepipe outlets to prevent flying embers from igniting a roof fire.
  • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Use a screen to enclose the front of your fireplace to confine live embers and sparks. Keep Christmas stockings, holiday decorations, and furniture at a safe distance from fireplace.
  • Never burn Christmas trees or wrapping paper in the fireplace or wood stove. Both burn very intensely and may cause a roof or chimney fire.
  • Firelogs (such as duraflame) Usage and Safety Tips:
    • DO NOT use in wood stoves or BBQS.
    • DO NOT use for cooking.
    • Burn only ONE log at a time - the wax component of the product produces twice the BTU heat value per pound of wood, allowing one firelong to provide a fire equivalent to several pieces of wood. Burning more than one log at a time could result in too large or too hot of fire in your fireplace.
    • Position logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
    • DO NOT use pokers or tongs to move firelogs. These logs are designed to burn in a controlled manner and do not require tending.
  • Consider replacing your wood burning fireplace with a gas fireplace. For more information. 

Be Prepared

  • Install smoke alarms inside and outside all sleeping areas and a carbon monoxide alarm in the home.
    Test alarms monthly and replace batteries annually.
  • Install fire extinguishers where they are easily accessible.
  • Make a home escape plan with family members. Your plan should include two exits out of every room and a common meeting place outside. Practice your home escape plan.
  • Teach family members that if a fire does occur to crawl low under smoke to make a safe escape.
  • Teach all family members how to report an emergency by calling 911.

Red Flag Fire Warnings

A "Red Flag Warning" is a forecast warning issued by the United States National Weather Service to inform area firefighting agencies that conditions are ideal for wildland fire ignition and propagation. A "Red Flag Warning" means high fire danger with increased probability of a quickly spreading vegetation fire in the area within 24 hours.

Red flags will fly at all Santa Clara County Fire Department fire stations to alert the public when the National Weather Service has issued a "Red Flag Warning" for Santa Clara County. Use of the red flags is one element of Santa Clara County Fire Department's comprehensive effort to enhance our community members' knowledge regarding fire prevention and defensible space requirements.
Community members can take steps to protect their homes, their property, and themselves. Santa Clara County Fire Department urges everyone to follow these guidelines:

  • Be careful with fire. It is estimated that people cause 90% of wildfires.
  • Create a defensible space around all structures by clearing flammable vegetation to a minimum of 100' or to the property line.
  • Remove tree limbs within 10' of chimneys and stovepipes.
  • Remove pine needles and leaves from roofs, eaves, and rain gutters.
  • Remember that lawnmowers are for use on lawns. Do not use them on dry grass or weeds; doing so can start a fire.
  • Always mow before 10am. Dry grass has the highest amount of moisture during the morning hours.
  • Dispose of cigarettes properly. Do not discard cigarettes on roadsides or in dry grass.
  • Be alert: Immediately report small fires by calling 9-1-1.
  • Avoid activities in or adjacent to dry grass or brush covered areas, such as weed mowing or disking, metal cutting, grinding or welding, using chain saws or any other activity that could produce a spark or flame.
  • Park vehicles with hot catalytic converters only on paved or dirt areas; not on grass.
  • Most important: Have a plan for gathering family members, pets, and valuables in case an approaching wildfire requires evacuation.

Santa Clara County Fire Department and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Santa Clara Unit participate in alerting the community of "Red Flag Warnings."
In addition to flying red flags on extreme fire weather days, the Santa Clara County Fire Department is teaching wildland fire safety awareness to community members as part of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.
For additional information about fire safety and fire resistant landscaping, visit the following websites:
CAL FIRE  
Santa Clara County FireSafe Council

Seasonal Safety Tip Sheets (NFPA)

Spare the Air Alerts

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issues Spare the Air Alerts when ozone pollution is forecast to reach unhealthy levels in the Bay Area. In the wintertime, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) becomes the pollutant with the greatest impact on air quality. Fine particulates can bypass the body's natural defenses, penetrating deeply into the lungs and even passing into the bloodstream. Prolonged exposure to the fine particulates in wood smoke has been linked with aggravated asthma, lung and heart disease, and increased mortality rates. Wood burning in fireplaces and woodstoves creates about one-third of the winter particulate matter air pollution in the Bay Area.

When the morning forecast predicts unhealthy particulate matter concentrations, the Air District will issue a Winter Spare the Air Alert. Winter Spare the Air Alerts will be posted on the Spare the Air home page and on the Bay Area Air Quality District's www.baaqmd.gov home page. It will also be recorded at 1.877.4NO.BURN. Residents and businesses can sign up for e-mail AirAlerts and automatic Phone Alerts as well, so they can "check before you burn."

To find out when a Spare the Air Alert is in effect, you can:

To submit a complaint about violations of this new law, you can:

  • Call 1.877.4NO.BURN.

Spare the Air Every Day 

Help reduce pollution and prevent Spare the Air Alerts! Here are some great ways to Spare the Air and find a better way to work:

  • Commute Tips - Visit stacommutetips.org to get all the information you’re looking for about commute programs and incentives available where you live and work.
  • Walk or Ride Your Bike - Save money and improve your health, too! Use the Spare the Air app’s Bike Route Planner or the 511 Bike Mapper to plan your trip.
  • Take the Bus, Ferry or Train - Save gas and money – and reduce stress! Find the fastest route on 511 Trip Planner.
  • Carpool - Commute with colleagues or neighbors instead of driving alone. Find your rideshare match at 511.org.
  • Skip a Trip or Link Your Errands - By combining or eliminating trips, you reduce pollution in addition to saving gas and time.

 

Summer Safety Tips

While you enjoy some fun in the sun, County Fire reminds you to keep some safety tips in mind.

Heat-Related Illness

  • Avoid heat exhaustion by staying in cool areas.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to the body.
  • Drink sips of water.
  • List of Cooling Centers

Practice Water Safety With Your Child
Drowning is the number one cause of death in children under the age of 14.

  • Enroll your child in a licensed swim class.
  • Supervise your child in and around the water, even if a lifeguard is present.

Learn CPR

  • Become CPR certified by taking a local class.
  • Put your CPR training to use in the event of an emergency.
    Download the PulsePoint mobile application and be alerted when someone nearby is affected by sudden cardiac arrest.

Barbecues

  • Use an approved starter fluid when lighting a barbecue.
  • Never use gasoline.
  • Don’t add fuel to the fire after it has been started.
  • Place grills at least 10 feet from your house.

Hot Coals

  • Dispose of hot coals after they have cooled.

Matches & Lighters

  • Keep matches and lighters in a safe place away from children.
  • Purchase lighters with a child-resistant feature.

Garden Hoses
Outdoor water play is popular for young children during the summer time. Please consider the drought before using this valuable resource.

  • Water directly from a standing hose can be extremely hot, don’t place water from a standing house directly on skin.
  • Run the garden hose water until it is cool before using.

Automobiles

  • If your vehicle overheats, do not remove the radiator cap until you are sure the engine has cooled down and use a rag when removing the cap.
  • Include a fire extinguisher in your vehicle.
  • Include tools and other emergency equipment.
  • Avoid burns by being aware of metal in your car that may have been exposed to the sun.
  • “Beat the heat, check the back seat”
    • Check for small children in a car seat.
    • Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.
    • Never leave pets in a vehicle during the summer.

Gasoline

  • Store gasoline in approved safety cans.
  • Store gasoline away from open flames.
  • Store gasoline out of the reach of children.

Fireworks Safety

The safest and most effective way to prevent fireworks-related injuries and deaths is to leave all fireworks displays to trained professionals and attend an outdoor public display.

If you live in an area where consumer fireworks (safe and sane fireworks) are legal, then please follow these safety tips: (NOTE: Safe and sane fireworks are legal for Gilroy residents only)

  • Follow Federal and State firework laws. Every state has rules and regulations concerning the use, possession, and distribution of all types of fireworks. Knowing the laws in your state can keep you safe, prevent fines, and protect you from purchasing unsafe or illegal fireworks. View updated laws for every state concerning fireworks.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Use fireworks in clear and open areas that are clear of any obstructions. Also, be sure that the area where fireworks will be used is clear of dry, potentially flammable grass, wood, or debris. It is also recommended that you monitor your state’s wildfire warnings and make sure there isn’t a fire weather watch in effect. These warnings occur during extended periods of dry weather and higher than average wind speeds. During these conditions lighting fireworks could lead to potentially lethal wildfires.

  • Only adults should use fireworks. A majority of fireworks-related injuries happen to children under the age of 15. Understanding the risks fireworks pose to children and the importance of having adults present to handle fireworks can greatly decrease injuries and deaths.

  • Light fireworks on flat surfaces. Using a flat surface is extremely important when lighting fireworks. If the area where you are using fireworks is uneven, there is the potential they could tip over and shoot off horizontally, which could result in an injury to a person, property damage, or fires.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher ready. Have a fire extinguisher nearby. When using fireworks there should be at least one person assigned the duty of operating the fire extinguisher in case something should go wrong.

  • Store and dispose of fireworks safely. Do not store fireworks for extended periods of time. When storing fireworks keep them in a cool dry place AND out of the reach of children. Once a firework is used it should be allowed to rest for 15 to 20 minutes and then placed in a bucket of water to soak thoroughly. After the rest and soak period, they can be safely disposed of in a regular trash receptacle. Both of these steps are important because if fireworks are not soaked properly there is a potential for heat to be trapped inside of them and they can reignite and cause trash fires. Also, be careful when cleaning up debris from used fireworks since certain parts may still be extremely hot, combustible, or sharp.

  • Keep your distance. It is important to stand a safe distance away from lit fireworks, including before, during, and after the launch. It is also important to keep a safe distance away in case a firework is a dud or malfunctions since in some of these instances there will be a delayed launch. It is recommended that all spectators be 30 feet away from all fountain style fireworks or anything that emits sparks.

  • Do not experiment with fireworks. A significant number of injuries and deaths associated with fireworks come from tampering with the original design of the firework. Occasionally individuals will combine the explosive material from inside fireworks in an attempt to create larger, more powerful fireworks. This is extremely dangerous and often leads to unpredictable and hazardous results.