From the June 2015 issue

Fireworks Safety for Kids

Kids, much like grown-ups, are drawn to fireworks. Starting in June, celebrations bring plenty of brilliant patriotic explosions – from bottle rockets and missile-type rockets to “low impact” sparklers and cones.

But a darker side is acted out in emergency rooms. A high-profile reminder happened last summer when local meteorologist David Rexroth lost an eye to a fireworks accident in front of his sons. As Michigan marks its fourth year of accessibility to higher-grade fireworks, it’s prime time for a safety refresher with Dearborn fire marshal Laura Ridenour.

Do your research. Prior to buying, visit Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs online. Here, you’ll get tips on safety, products and a list of state-certified fireworks retailers.

Check your surroundings. Fireworks belong outdoors. “We definitely recommend lighting them off in open spaces,” says Ridenour, and away from spectators, buildings and flammable objects like cars, dry grass and not-yet-lit fireworks. For exact safety distances, check the packaging. If a product does not have this info, it’s uncertified. Don’t purchase it.

Caution with kids. Don’t let “low impact” fool you. “Sparklers burn at 2,000 degrees,” Ridenour notes – hot enough to melt flesh and gold bars. Even small-scale fireworks operate like mini blowtorches and can start fires. The National Council on Fireworks Safety says kids shouldn’t handle fireworks until age 12. Ensure kids hold them away from the face, Ridenour adds, and “don’t wear loose clothing that can catch fire if they trip.” No running!

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Extra care. The “shooter” should wear safety glasses, the council notes. And always have a bucket of water or hose handy before ignition.

Treat burns. If a mishap occurs and it’s minor – i.e., slight redness or irritation – apply cold water, Mayo Clinic notes. However, “If you have dead skin and blistering, you should make your way to the hospital,” says Ridenour. Avoid “remedies” like applying butter, breaking blisters or removing stuck clothing; these are old wives’ tales. “Burns are incredibly dangerous because they risk infection” and should be treated immediately.

Clean up. All spent fireworks, including sparklers, should be placed in buckets of water before tossing. Don’t attempt to relight dud fireworks, but douse them in water. “You don’t want to leave it for someone else to find,” says Ridenour. Have a designated cleanup crew to keep your celebration site trip-hazard free, too.

Hide and supervise. “Parents wouldn’t normally give their children paper fireballs,” says Ridenour. So, when it comes to storage, keep all fireworks out of reach of unsupervised children of all ages year-round – even in the home, when not being used for celebratory purposes. “Just because something’s legal doesn’t make it safe.”

Illustration by Mino Watanabe