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How to Buy and Use Fireworks Safely

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As spring turns into summer, Americans start gearing up for Independence Day. In many cases, that means loading up on fireworks. For most people, Fourth of July fireworks displays are fun nights full of oohs and aahs. But every year, thousands of people are burned or injured by consumer fireworks.

Don't be one of those people. If you're planning your own home fireworks display, keep these tips in mind for buying and using fireworks safely.

Buying safe fireworks

Make sure that you understand the difference between a legal consumer firework and a dangerous explosive. M-80s, M-100s, blockbusters, and quarterpounders aren't fireworks, they're illegal, federally banned explosives.

You should buy fireworks only from reputable dealers. By law, all consumer fireworks must be clearly labeled with the manufacturers' name and address and the name of the firework itself. Don't by unlabeled fireworks; they may be both illegal and dangerous. If a dealer is selling unlabeled fireworks, go somewhere else.

Setting off fireworks

The National Council on Fireworks Safety and the American Pyrotechnics Association offer guidelines for safely launching your own home fireworks display:

  • Always have an adult in charge of lighting fireworks.

  • Never give fireworks to small children. Even sparklers can burn people.

  • The person lighting the fireworks should not be drinking alcohol and should wear glasses or safety goggles.

  • Always read the directions and safety guidelines on a firework's label.

  • Set up your fireworks display on a steady, flat surface.

  • Make sure there are no flammable materials near your "launch site." This includes other fireworks that you plan to launch.

  • As a general rule, spectators should be at least 20 feet away from a fountain-style display and at least 40 feet away from the launch site of an aerial fireworks display.

  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose handy.

  • Light only one firework at a time.

  • Don't try to relight "dud" fireworks.

  • Never throw or point a firework at a person.

  • Do not shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.

Disposing of fireworks

To properly dispose of used fireworks, first douse them in water. Let them sit for 10 or 15 minutes, to make sure all flames are out and the fireworks' husks have cooled, and then throw them in the trash.

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