Fireworks safety is a really important issue as we get closer to July 4.
To help you understand the kinds of things you need to keep in mind this year, we reached out to Bob Weaver, a well-known veteran in the fireworks world. His site, Fireworksland.com, is an invaluable resource for all of us who love fireworks.
The Ultimate Guide to Fireworks Safety
The first rule? Only buy legal fireworks. Do not buy illegal ones such as M-80s or salutes. We’ve organized the rest of Bob’s safety tips into three sections: Firing Area, Lighting Your Fireworks and Reminders for Specific Products.
- Use fireworks only in a wide-open area, well away from any buildings, vehicles, or vegetation.
- Do not use fireworks near houses. The best places to use them are:
- A large, empty dirt lot.
- A beach (if fireworks are allowed there).
- A large, empty parking lot (if the property owner gives you permission).
- An island in the middle of a river.
- A desert area or other wide-open place, well away from cars, buildings or trees.
- Do not use fireworks on grass or any soft, uneven ground. Only use fireworks on hard, flat, level surfaces. This is very important to prevent the fireworks from tipping over.
- Have a flashlight and a bucket of water handy at all times. If you have a fire extinguisher, of course, have it handy as well. But a bucket of water is enough.
- Keep spectators at least 50 feet away from the firing location.
- Bring a large (4 x 8 foot) piece of plywood with you to use as a firing pad if you aren’t lighting the fireworks on pavement.
- Only an adult (18 or older) may light the fireworks. Children must only watch.
Lighting Your Fireworks
- Light only one item at a time. If you want more than one item to go off, fuse them together in advance of the show so that you have to light only one fuse. Don’t try to light a bunch of fuses in a row.
- Do not light fireworks inside any container that was not specifically designed for this purpose.
- Light the firework with a long-handled lighter such as for barbecues, or a jumbo punk or road flare.
- Keep your body away from the firework and reach out to light the fuse.
- Do not have your body close to the firework. Do not have your hand close to the fuse as you light it.
- Step back at least 10 feet from the firework after lighting the fuse.
- Never, ever, look into a tube that has a shell loaded into it, and never place any part of your body over a tube.
- Don’t try to re-light a dud. Just forget it and go on to the next item.
- If you have sparklers, ask everyone to drop their sparklers into a bucket of water when they finish.
- Children who want to hold sparklers must do so only with their parents’ supervision at all times.
- Always clean up the area after the show. Don’t leave a bunch of trash behind.
- Follow the instructions printed on each item. Read these instructions well in advance. If you’re using cakes that fire at an angle, remember to look on the box to find out which side of the product should be facing your audience.
- Keep the fireworks in a box that you can easily open and close. Take only one item out at a time, and close the box after you take each item out. This is called the “ready box” in professional displays. The box must remain closed so that any falling sparks will not hit the fireworks inside.
Reminders for Specific Products
- Multi-shot “cakes” should be glued down or taped down. If you do not have time to do this, use a concrete block or a set of 4 concrete blocks placed in a square. Set each cake inside the block(s). This is very important. Don’t just set a cake down on the ground and light it. Tape all of your cakes down to a large piece of wood or cardboard in advance. The reason for all this is that multi-shot cakes can tip over while firing, and fire the remaining shots horizontally. Prevent this from happening by securing all cakes down before use.
- Reloadable shells should all be pre-loaded into their mortar tubes in advance of the show. If you attempt to reload tubes during the show, you will be very frustrated and you will slow down the pace of the show. This will require buying a lot of extra tubes, but it will make for a much better show. Stopping the show to reload tubes will create “dead space” in your show and boredom in your audience.
- Ground spinners such as “Ground Bloom Flower,” etc. need a large, flat, smooth, hard, level surface to work. The same goes for traveling novelty items such as “Tanks” and similar products. Bring a large board if no hard, flat surface is at the shooting site.
- Flying Spinners and helicopters such as “Plane Flying at Night” need a flat, smooth, hard, level surface to spin on before they lift off. Make sure the printed side is up and the fuse is underneath a wing. Do not stand them on end.
- Skyrockets must be launched from a narrow tube or a rack designed for them, not from your hand or by sticking them into the ground.
- Roman Candles must be set in a stable rack or other support. Do not hold roman candles in your hand.
- Never use PVC pipe for launching fireworks. Use either the cardboard launching tube that came in the box with the fireworks, or use mortar tubes which are specifically designed for fireworks and are made of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) or fiberglass. The problem with PVC is that if there is an explosion in the mortar tube, PVC has a tendency to shatter into razor-sharp pieces, while the other types (HDPE, fiberglass or cardboard) do not. Stay away from PVC.
Last but not least, keep fireworks away from watermelons, dolls and mannequins. The dangers of allowing fireworks near these objects are clearly demonstrated every year on television around the 4th of July!
Wrapping it Up: A Special Thanks to Bob Weaver
Like we mentioned in the first part of this post, Bob is highly regarded in fireworks circles. We’re proud to have his insights on the Superior Fireworks blog. Stop by his website, Fireworksland.com, and soak up some of his wisdom. It’s a great site!