Safety first
Experts urge caution when using fireworks

CONYERS - With Independence Day coming next weekend, fireworks are a popular item. But fire safety experts urge the community to take precautions to ensure a safe holiday.

In Georgia, sparklers and similar non-explosive fireworks are legal, but they can still cause injury, according to a press release from Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John Oxendine.

"Fireworks should only be used with close adult supervision," Oxendine said in the release. "Sparklers can burn at temperatures as high as 1,800 degrees and must be used properly."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, fireworks, if used improperly, can cause blindness, third degree burns and permanent scarring, as well as residential or motor vehicle fires.

In a 2006 study conducted by the CDC from June 16 to July 16, people under the age of 20 constituted 47 percent of all fireworks-related injuries. The body parts most injured were hands, eyes, head, face, and ears. More dangerous types of fireworks, such as firecrackers, increase opportunities for injury.

According to Rockdale County Deputy Fire Chief Mike Lee, the county has experienced significantly fewer firework-related incidents ever since laws governing the sale and use of fireworks have changed. Most firework injuries and incidents are caused by people who bring fireworks across state lines, Lee said.

Lee said that the amount of fire-related problems on Independence Day vary from year to year. "There is no way to predict it," Lee said.

According to Oxendine, the sale and use of most types of fireworks, such as firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs, remains illegal in Georgia and can be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or one year in jail.

"I hope Georgians aren't tempted to bring illegal fireworks into the state to stage their own displays. Besides being illegal, such activity can lead to serious injury," Oxendine said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2007, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,800 people for fireworks-related injuries. On Independence Day in a typical year, there are more fires reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for half of those fires.

Lee recommends using sparklers or legal firework materials under sober adult supervision and exercising extreme caution in order to stay safe. According to Lee, the best way to enjoy fireworks is to go see a professional show.

Below are fireworks safety tips supplied by the National Council on Fireworks Safety's Web site:

· Use fireworks outdoors only.

· Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.

· Always have water handy. (A hose or bucket).

· Only use fireworks as intended. Don't try to alter them or combine them.

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

· Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.

· Only people over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.

· Do not ever use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives. Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department in your community.

Features Editor Karen J. Rohr contributed to this article.

Brittany Binowski can be reached at news.intern@rockdalecitizen.com.