Who's Running the Show? Firework Safety at Events and Shows

Fireworks have long been associated with celebration, excitement, and spectacle. But as thrilling as they may be, these dazzling displays come with inherent dangers, and many people are unaware of the unintended consequences that can arise when things go wrong. In this blog, we'll delve into the world of fireworks safety, discussing the risks involved in both amateur and professional events, and providing tips on how to stay safe while enjoying the show.

Fireworks-related incidents can result in a range of injuries, from minor burns to life-threatening accidents. In addition to causing bodily harm, fireworks can also lead to fires, property damage, and even death. While less tangible, it's important to note the negative impact fireworks can have on the environment and noise pollution.

Deaths and Injuries Caused By Fireworks at Events

Although most firework-related injuries and deaths occur during amateur events, there have been several incidents at professionally-organized events as well. Some notable examples include:

  • 1998 Ohio fireworks event: A young girl was killed, and nine others were injured when an errant firework rocket hit the crowd. This tragedy led to the push for House Bill 405 by the girl's parents.
  • 1986 San Francisco fireworks disaster: Eight people died, 20 were injured, and over 100 businesses were affected by a major fireworks explosion.
  • 1987 National Mall fireworks display in Washington DC: Four or more people were injured during a fireworks display.
  • 1996 Fireworks stand explosion in Lawrence County, Ohio: Nine people died, and 11 were injured in a devastating explosion at a fireworks stand.
  • 2003 Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island: A concert pyrotechnic display led to a fire that claimed 100 lives and injured 230 people.
  • 2022 Bastille Day in Cholet, France: A fireworks event resulted in two deaths and seven injuries.

In some cases, fireworks can ignite unintentionally and cause disastrous fires. For example:

  • 1908 SS Kresge fireworks explosion: A little girl's sparkler ignited a stack of fireworks, leading to an explosion and fire that killed seven and injured dozens.
  • 2021 LAPD fireworks disposal accident: A controlled detonation of fireworks by the Los Angeles Police Department resulted in a major explosion, injuring 17 people in a South Los Angeles neighborhood.
  • Toledo, Ohio block party: A stack of fireworks piled next to a rental truck ignited, injuring four people.

Fireworks accidents aren't limited to events and shows; they can also occur at factories, warehouses, and markets where fireworks are produced and stored. Over the years, there have been numerous incidents involving explosions and fires at these facilities, often resulting in significant damage, injuries, and fatalities.

In 2019, fireworks caused an estimated 19,500 fires in the United States, resulting in $105 million in property damage. These fires can be difficult to control and can spread rapidly, putting people and property at risk.

Safety Guidelines For Events With Fireworks

While fireworks can be exciting and enjoyable, it's important to take steps to ensure that they're used safely. Whether you're attending a professionally-organized event or setting off fireworks yourself, there are certain precautions you can take to minimize the risk of injury or harm.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is the difference between licensed professionals and amateurs. Professional pyrotechnicians are trained to handle fireworks safely and have the necessary licenses and insurance to ensure that their displays are well-regulated and meet safety standards. Amateur fireworks displays, on the other hand, can be risky and unpredictable, and are responsible for the majority of fireworks-related injuries and deaths.

To ensure safety at fireworks events, it's crucial to consider the following:

  • Make sure the event is organized by licensed professionals, with proper permits and insurance.
  • Choose a safe seating distance from the display, and check for the presence of firetrucks and emergency medical services (EMS) on-site.
  • Look for the name of the pyrotechnics company responsible for the event.
  • If you suspect an issue or safety violation at an event or in your neighborhood, report it to the appropriate authorities.
  • When purchasing fireworks, be aware of local laws and restrictions, and avoid traveling out of state to buy fireworks where they may be illegal.

The Environmental Impact of Fireworks

While fireworks can be a fun and exciting way to celebrate, they can also have unintended consequences on the environment. One of these consequences is noise pollution.

Fireworks can be incredibly loud, with sound levels reaching up to 155 decibels. This level of noise can be damaging to wildlife, causing stress and disorientation. It can also be disruptive to people who live near fireworks displays, especially those with sensitive hearing or who suffer from anxiety or PTSD.

In addition to noise pollution, fireworks can also have a significant impact on air quality. Fireworks release a range of chemicals into the air, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which can contribute to smog and air pollution. These chemicals can also have a negative impact on human health, especially for those with respiratory issues.

Fireworks can also produce litter, with spent casings and debris often falling to the ground. This litter can be harmful to wildlife, as well as unsightly and difficult to clean up.

Keeping Fireworks Safe For Everyone

Fireworks displays can be mesmerizing and captivating, bringing communities together to celebrate various occasions. However, it's essential to remain vigilant and prioritize safety when attending or organizing these events. By understanding the risks involved, being aware of past incidents, and following the guidelines for responsible use, we can all enjoy the spectacle of fireworks while minimizing the risk of accidents and injuries. As spectators or event organizers, we must do our part in ensuring that these dazzling displays continue to light up the night sky safely and responsibly, providing memorable experiences for everyone involved.

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