Fireworks on the Fourth of July are an American tradition. It started with the Independence Day celebration in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777. Revelers marked the first anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence with bonfires, bells, and fireworks.
Today, they still play a major part in the way we commemorate Independence Day across the nation. Although the coronavirus pandemic has canceled many community activities, including parades, festivals, and public presentations, most Americans will still celebrate in some way with family. For many that will include barbecues and home fireworks displays.
With all that celebrating, it’s important to keep yourself and your family safe. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 9,000 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries in 2018, with most of those injuries occurring around the fourth of July. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports they started more than 19,000 fires that year, including 1,900 structure fires and 500 vehicle fires. NFPA says these fires caused five deaths and $105 million in direct property damage. So, fireworks safety should be taken seriously.
If consumer fireworks are legal to buy where you live and you choose to use them, the National Safety Council (NSC) offers the following safety tips:
- Never allow young children to handle them*
- Older children should use them only under close adult supervision
- Never use them while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Anyone using them or standing nearby should wear protective eye-wear
- Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands
- Never light them indoors
- Only use them away from people, houses, and flammable material
- Never point or throw them at another person
- Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting
- Never ignite devices in a container
- Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
- Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
- Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire
- Never use illegal firework
* Note: Sparklers are popular and are not classified as fireworks in some states (including Illinois). Because they burn at 1,200-2,000 degrees, they aren’t a good choice for young children. According to the CPSC, sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries, and they account for nearly half of all fireworks injuries for children under the age of five.
Safer alternatives for young kids include glow sticks, confetti poppers, silly string, snap pops, glow-in-the-dark lawn toys, and glow-in-the-dark bubbles.
Alternatives to Fireworks
For those who live in areas where fireworks are illegal or impractical, or who just don’t want to take the risks, NFPA offers a shareable pdf with some suggestions for Fourth of July celebrations that don’t include fireworks. You’ll find a few back yard family fun ideas on our website too.
Whatever way you and your family choose to celebrate Independence Day this year, we encourage you to take a minute or two to reflect on why we celebrate and on the impact of the words that declared the birth of our nation on July 4th, 1776:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
Visit the National Archives online to read the entire text of the Declaration of Independence and more documents of America’s founding and growth as a nation.