REYNOLDSBURG – Leave the fireworks displays to the professionals, said State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers during a news conference Wednesday at the State Fire Marshal’s Office in Reynoldsburg.
In 2010, approximately 8,600 people were sent to the emergency room for treatment of fireworks related injuries and an estimated 6,300 were treated during a one month period around the Fourth of July. Flowers said this year’s dry weather makes home fireworks displays even more dangerous than usual.
“Even the novelty items can cause injuries and burns,” said Flowers, referring to sparklers and other items that can be legally ignited in Ohio. Flowers demonstrated that an ordinary sparkler burns at roughly 1,500 degrees.“They can cause third degree burns,” he said. Also, they can cause wildfires. “We’re concerned this year with the very dry conditions,” said Flowers.
“We all think injuries can’t happen to us,” said Sherry Williams, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness Ohio. She said, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Fireworks Annual Report issued in 2011, the part of the body most often injured in home fireworks accidents were hands and fingers (estimated 1,900 injuries), legs (1,400 injuries), eyes (1,300 injuries), and the head, face, and ears (1,000 injuries). Some injuries caused permanent vision loss.
Williams said the report also found that children under 15 years of age accounted for approximately 40 percent of the estimated injuries. And, children under the age of five experienced an estimated 700 injuries. For that specific age group, sparklers accounted for 43 percent of the total injuries. In fact, fireworks sometimes referred to as “safe and sane” including sparklers, fountains and other novelties, made up two out of five injuries treated in emergency rooms.
“Prevent Blindness Ohio supports a total ban on backyard fireworks, including sparklers, which are widely available at grocery and department stores,” said Williams. “The Fourth of July should be a time when we come together to honor our country by celebrating our great nation safely and responsibly. We hope all Americans have a wonderful holiday with their loved ones, not in the emergency room.”
According to the Ohio Insurance Institute, the only fireworks legal for consumer use in Ohio are “trick and novelty” items such as sparklers, snaps, glow snakes and smoke bombs.
Anyone 18 or older can buy firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles and fountains within the state from a licensed retailer. One can purchase them but can’t “technically” use them in Ohio. At the point of purchase, the buyer must sign a form that says the fireworks will be transported out of Ohio within 48 hours. Out-of-state residents must transport them within 72 hours.
According to the OII, in Ohio, a first-time offender of any fireworks related laws risks confiscation of the fireworks and a first-degree misdemeanor, including a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail or both.
Flowers said firework violations are very hard to enforce in Ohio. He urged anyone who is aware of a home fireworks display not only to avoid it, but report it as well.
“Although some people mistakenly believe that backyard fireworks are safe if only adults handle them, our research shows that one-quarter of fireworks related injuries to children occur to bystanders,” said Gary Smith, a doctor and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance. “These children were not using the fireworks themselves and yet they were still injured. This tells us that children are at risk of injury by simply being in the vicinity of backyard fireworks use.” Smith said that as a doctor treating children’s injuries, parents would constantly tell him, “Doctor, I was standing right there.” He said adult supervision is not enough. “Under no condition are backyard fireworks safe,” said Smith.
Flowers said consumers can never trust the strength of the fireworks they buy. They could either be far more powerful or less than how they are marketed. “You really don’t know what you’re going to get.”
The bottom line, said Flowers, is unlicensed people should not be lighting fireworks at all. “I want people to attend the licensed, professional exhibits,” he said.