Don’t Blow Fireworks Safety

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Fireworks explode.

Yes, I’m aware that seems like a bulletin from the Department of Redundancy Department’s Division of Dupliicitious Dangers Division, but it does need to be said every so often so we don’t forget.

Most of us see fireworks as a really cool part of early July, a fun way to celebrate American Independence Day (not the one with Will Smith and the aliens. The good one.). We’ve become so used to the idea of fireworks being around and being under our personal control, that we sometimes forget just how dangerous they can be.

In 2012, approximately 8,700 people were injured and six regular folks who didn’t work with fireworks for a living were killed because of being around said fireworks. That is too many.

And, yes, you — yes, you. I’m talking directly to you here — could easily become just another sad statistic.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I and my fellow teenaged idiots used to carry around lengths of specially modified PVC pipe to use as bazookas. We’d insert bottle rockets in one end, light them off, and aim them at each other.

Looking back at all the stuff I pulled as a younger more idiotic version of myself, it is a near miracle I made it to 39 to almost die of a heart attack.

Being a parent now, though, I have to be much more careful. Not only do I need to set a good safety example for my young dudes, but I have to do so in a way that they won’t do something dangerous just because I said not to do it. That last part is the really difficult bit. If you figure out how, let me know.

Keeping your young kids safe around fireworks is easy. Just don’t let them wander off. Grab a teachable moment or two during the evening to talk about how those fireworks are pretty when seen from far away, but can be deadly dangerous up close. Explosions are still explosions, even when they’re multicolored.

It’s as the kids grow older that the true difficulties arise. When they get to a certain age, definitely every boy and most girls will want to be the one to set flame to fuse. At first, I resisted. If they weren’t near the fireworks, they couldn’t get hurt was my line of thought.

That only works for so long. Eventually, I came to realize they would be setting off firewworks without me around if only when they grew up, so I decided to try and teach them safety measures while I had them. I wanted them to practice safety so thoroughly, it would be the only way they knew to behave around fireworks.

I drilled and drilled about the danger of fireworks. They already understood that fire could burn and, for all of them, had. (I actually didn’t stop each kid from burning themselves when they were younger. I told them fire was dangerous and to always be careful. The didn’t listen and each got burned even though I could have stopped it. I figured a little pain then would be proof against massive injury later.) Now they had to be careful the fire in their hands didn’t burn themselves and also didn’t get near any fuses.

The most important thing to do after that, for me, was to instill a sense of environmental awareness in them. I wanted them to understand that what they were doing could have an effect on many people around them. They always needed to be aware of where people were, if anyone was coming close, or walking in an intersecting path. That sort of thing. They also needed to loudly and clearly announce their intention to light a firework before they did so, and with enough time between announcement and ignition that someone could actually get a little distance should they want to do so.

Although it shouldn’t have to be stated, I made them learn not to put their face or body over a firework they were about to light, always run away from a lit firework and never light a firework they were holding.

Even with the basics instilled, there still can be problems. One year, my guys were lighting mortar fireworks (like little cannon balls you light and drop into a tube. The ball is propelled from the tube up and out where it explodes high in the sky) and ran up against the issue of purpose. Certain mortar rounds are made for certain tubes.

If you put the wrong round in the wrong tube, things go wrong. Like, say, the tube spills over and the mortar round flies out toward parental spectators and explodes quite near them.

After I calmed down and the boys came down out of the tree where they’d been hiding, we were able to work out a  valuable addition to our fireworks safety routine.

Even with all the precautions I take, I realize that what I’m allowing my boys (the youngest now 15) to do is dangerous. So I always take the most important precaution by making sure that I am there, I’m aware and able to respond, and continue to act as the wet blanket1 of any fireworks display.

I understand that what we do is dangerous. My boys understand it as well. I choose to do this because I know they will ignite fireworks when they get older and move away from me and I wanted to instill at least a small amount of concern over safety before they are off on their own.

Some of you guys might not want to chance that, which is probably the smartest thing to do. Just find a show somewhere nearby and enjoy from a safe distance.

Either way, make safety your first priority and live to celebrate another Independence Day with all your fingers, toes, eyes and hands.

Footnotes & Errata
1 In both a metaphorical sense by being the safety-obsessed funkiller and a slightly less metaphorical sense by having a wet towel nearby to smother any unintentional flames.