7-4-13 RESA 8 promoting fireworks safety

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Summer celebrations are coming up and West Virginians will be busy with cookouts, family reunions and community parades. Unfortunately, celebrations can quickly turn to tragedy for families, especially when children and teenagers are killed or permanently injured by so-called “safe and sane” fireworks. RESA 8 Public Service Training works with area fire and EMS agencies to provide training that prepares emergency responders to serve their community. A role of emergency response agencies that is often overlooked is to educate the public so that emergencies are avoided. David Plume, RESA 8 Public Service Training coordinator, explained, “While EMS and fire agencies are well prepared for emergencies, they would prefer that the emergencies don’t occur.” The State Fire Marshal’s Office is an agency in West Virginia that promotes safety, especially with fireworks.

Any fireworks-type materials are dangerous,” states Acting State Fire Marshal Anthony Carrico. “Even sparklers can burn hot enough to melt gold and cause 3rd-degree burns. Basically, there is no such thing as safe fireworks.” Burns are the leading cause of injury from fireworks, followed by lacerations and contusions, all primarily involving the fingers, hands, eyes and facial area.

How can you prevent fireworks injuries? By far, the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend an outdoor public display put on by specially trained pyrotechnic professionals. Below are some tips from the State Fire Marshall’s website:

If you’re going to use sparklers and novelties (the only items permitted by W.Va. law) use with extreme caution.

Older children should be closely supervised and younger children should not be allowed to play with fireworks at all.

Before using any legal fireworks, read and follow all warning instructions printed on the label.

Light all items outside in a clear area away from houses, away from yard debris such as grass, brush, leaves, and so forth, and away from flammable materials (gasoline cans, newspapers, and so forth)

Always keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on items that fail to ignite.

Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Douse and soak them with water, then properly dispose of them.

Always make sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks. Also be aware that pets have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk of injury.

Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.

Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially in a glass or metal container. Fireworks are more hazardous when confined.

Store fireworks in a cool, dry, secure place. Check instructions for special storage directions.

Never touch unexploded fireworks, and make sure children understand never to touch them.

Follow the law. Permissible under West Virginia law are items called “Novelties and Sparklers”: “snakes” and “glow worms,” smoke devices that produce white or colored smoke, trick noisemakers which include “party poppers,” “string poppers,” and “snappers” or “drop pops” and wire sparklers, as well as other sparkling devices which emit showers of sparks and sometimes a whistling or crackling effect when burning.

By state law, none of these novelties, sparklers and sparkler devices are to be sold to anyone under the age of 16. In West Virginia, the most dangerous types of fireworks prohibited by law include large reloadable shells, festival balls or shots, cherry bombs, aerial bombs (skyrockets, Roman candles), daygo bombs, M-80 salutes and firecrackers. Also banned are the mail-order kits designed to build fireworks. Violation of the fireworks law is a citable offense.

Plume commented, “I wish everyone a safe, happy summer season. But remember: it’s everyone’s special responsibility to protect our young children and teenagers by ensuring their safety, especially when exposing them to amateur use of fireworks.”

For more information on consumer fireworks safety, visit the following websites: www.nfpa.org, www.usfa.fema.gov or www.cpsc.gov. You can also contact Plume at dplume@access.k12.wv.us.

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