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.