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Officials urge safe use of fireworks

COVINGTON — Covington Fire Chief Don Floyd is joining state and national officials in urging that safety be foremost in the minds of those celebrating New Year's with fireworks.

"I would caution everyone if they are going to use fireworks to make sure they use them in accordance with the state fire law," Floyd said, pointing out that even though all types of fireworks are for sale in neighboring states, only sparklers and low-explosive fireworks are legal in Georgia.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety suggests the following safety tips:

• Never hold a child in your arms while using sparklers.

• Always remain standing while using sparklers.

• Never hold or light more than one sparkler at a time.

• Sparklers and bare feet can be a painful combination. Always wear closed-toe shoes when using sparklers.

• Sparkler wire and sticks remain hot long after the flame has gone out. Be sure to drop the spent sparklers directly in a bucket of water.

• Never hand a lighted sparkler to another person. Give them the unlit sparkler and then light it.

• Always stand at least 6 feet from another person while using sparklers.

• Never throw sparklers.

• Show children how to hold sparklers away from their body and at arm's length.

• Teach children not to wave sparklers, especially wooden stick sparklers, or run while hold sparklers.

According to Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine, "The sale and individual use of any type of fireworks, except certain kinds of sparklers, is illegal in Georgia. The penalties are a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of up to one year in jail."

Other types of fireworks that are permissible for use in Georgia include those known as snake and glow worms, trick noise makers which include paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers, snappers and drop pops.

Floyd said children or minors should always have direct supervision from adults when using sparklers.

"And even though we've been having wet weather, they should have some kind of fire extinguishing equipment nearby, such as a water hose, they could use in case of fire," Floyd said.

Consumers should not assume just because sparklers are legal that they are without risk, however.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 16 percent of all consumer fireworks injuries are caused by sparklers burning hands and legs, with the majority of sparkler injuries occurring to young children. Sparkler injuries account for a third of all firework injuries to children age 5 and younger.