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Fireworks Safety Tips

Before putting on a fireworks show, review these safety tips:

  • 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.
  • Buy only legal consumer fireworks. Do not buy illegal fireworks such as "M-80s" or large display fireworks.
  • 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.
  • Bring a large (4 x 8 foot) piece of plywood with you to use as a firing pad, if you will not be lighting the fireworks on pavement.
  • Only an adult (18 or older) may light the fireworks. Children must only watch.
  • 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 the spectators at least 50 feet away from the firing location.
  • Always keep the spectators upwind of the firing location. Any wind must be blowing from the spectators towards the firing location.
  • Always wear safety goggles when lighting fireworks. You can buy safety goggles at any hardware store.
  • Follow the instructions printed on each item. Read these instructions well in advance.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ground spinners such as "Ground Gloom Flower," etc. need a large, flat, smooth, hard, level surface to work. The same goes for traveling novelty items such as "Tanks," etc. Bring a large board if no hard, flat surface is at the shooting site.
  • Flying Spinners and helicopters such as "Plane Flying at Night," etc., 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!
  • 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 a 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 after lighting the fuse, to at least 10 feet away from the firework you just lit.
  • 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.

Copyright @ Bob Weaver. All rights reserved.

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