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MRC News

Published on December 25, 2001
Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service

JACKSON, Miss.—Celebrating the New Year should be fun and exciting, but Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges revelers to remember that incorrectly used fireworks can turn a joyful celebration into a dangerous event.

Dr. David Collipp, medical director of the rehab surgery program at Methodist Rehab, encourages children and adults to use extreme caution when handling fireworks. Children are most likely to be involved in firework-related injuries.

“Most fireworks can be relatively safe with proper and careful use,” said Dr. Collipp. “However, some fireworks are very dangerous and can result in deaths, loss of eyesight, severe burns and amputation.”

Americans have dramatically increased their use of fireworks. According to the Pyrotechnic Association, fireworks use has dramatically increased in the last decade from 67.6 million pounds in 1990 to more than 132.9 million pounds in 1997.

Dr. Collipp and Lauren Fairburn, director of Think First, Methodist Rehab’s statewide injury prevention program warn parents to never allow children to light fireworks or try to re-light fireworks that have not fully ignited.

“Last year over 11,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks,” said Fairburn. “ Most of the victims were under 15 years old and were treated for burns.”

Fairburn recommends keeping a bucket of water handy in case of a fire and to read and follow all instructions and warnings on firework labels.

Christian Lewis, manager of American Fireworks in Jackson says that making sure people are out of the way before lighting fireworks is the most important safety rule.

“Light it and get back,” said Lewis.
Lewis recommends that all children have adult supervision and says there are no completely safe fireworks. “Sparklers, smoke bombs and poppers are suggested for young children because they are the most safe,” said Lewis.

Dr. Collipp’s tips for a safe celebration this New Year include:

  • Only buy fireworks from licensed retail outlets.
  • Check with your local police department to determine what fireworks are legal in your area.
  • Never shoot fireworks in windy conditions.
  • Don't purchase or use unlabeled fireworks.
  • Never attempt to make your own fireworks and do not purchase or use any kits that are advertised for making fireworks.
  • Never mix alcohol and fireworks.
  • Use fireworks outdoors, in a safe area away from dry grass and buildings.
  • Never extend any part of the body over a lit firework.
  • Light one firework at a time and then walk back quickly.
  • Never shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at people or animals.

“The most effective way to reduce injuries is to focus on safety awareness and prevention,” said Fairburn. “We want to do all we can to prevent traumatic, often life-changing injuries.”

Methodist Rehab’s Think First program works to prevent spinal cord, brain and other traumatic injuries by focusing on bicycle, automobile, firearm, boat, swimming and diving safety. Think First speakers volunteer their time to encourage others to wear safety belts when driving, helmets when riding bicycles and motorcycles and to always think first about what they’re doing before they get into any potentially dangerous situation.