Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Fireworks Safety

Nathan Cabello - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Fireworks are a big New Year tradition in many countries. The bang and the spectacle have since come to be a standard feature of the New Year celebration. And the practice is steeped in superstition.

It's a mystery how entire communities - in fact, entire nations - stubbornly keep at the fireworks tradition, despite the history of injuries and even casualties linked to it. Old habits die hard. It is difficult to walk away from what one has already gotten used to.

In the Philippines, fireworks injuries and casualties are reported year after year after year. This has prompted the Department of Health to come up with a yearly campaign, around the Christmas season, against the use of fireworks. The campaign has made dent in the figures somehow, but by and large the problem persists.

How and why do fireworks injuries occur? Stefanie Zucker's article at www.pediatricsafety.net proposes some answers:

Fireworks type. Various types of fireworks, some of which are sold legally, can fly into peoples' faces and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite clothing; and firecrackers can injure the hands or face if they explode while being held.

Being too close. Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when these explode; for example, when someone leans over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided rocket-type firework hits a nearby person.

Lack of physical coordination. Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely - even mere sparklers! Many parents don't realize that young children can suffer serious injuries from sparklers, which burn at temperatures hot enough to melt some metals and enough to cause a serious burn.

Curiosity. Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured. For example, when they re-examine a firecracker "dud" that initially fails to ignite.

Experimentation. Homemade fireworks, like ones made of the powder collected from several firecrackers, can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.

Fireworks are, indeed, a much anticipated grand ending to a closing year and a bright welcome to the coming one. But the celebratory explosions also pose serious risks to limb, life and property. Thus, everyone needs to be very careful and safety conscious with fireworks. Stefanie Zucker shares some safety tips:

• Use fireworks outdoors only. Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers. Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.

• Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper. This is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

• Be careful when lighting the fuse.  Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Light fireworks one at a time, then quickly back off to a safe distance.

• Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.

• Only use fireworks as intended. Don't try to alter them or combine them. It can cause fatal injury!

• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap. After the fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

• Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.

• Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a "designated shooter," who should not be drinking before and during the activity with fireworks.

Fireworks are really fun to have on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day - but only if handled right. And the coming year is off to a good start when everyone has fun - not injury.

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