Staying safe on Independence Day

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News


As the Fourth of July approaches Iowan?s are ready to light up the sky as firework vendors appear around the state. Emergency room coordinator Lacy Harlan-Ralls and Doctor Frederic Frank of the Henry County Health Center both agree the safest way to handle fireworks is not to handle them at all and leave them to the experts.

?My best advice is not to use them unless you know what you?re doing,? says Dr. Frank. ?It takes a split second of lack of judgment.? The most common injuries associated with fireworks are burns to the hands and face, but any part of the body exposed runs risk of harm.

There is no specialized safety gear for lighting fireworks but both experts suggest wearing safety glasses and gloves. Of the firework related accidents they?ve seen, the majority of them have had alcohol involved. Both warn against consuming alcohol while launching fireworks because inhibitions are down and reactions are delayed.

If someone is injured with a burn, Harlan-Ralls says the best thing to do is pour cold water on the wound. She warns against using ointments because they can irritate the burn further. She says to wrap the wound in a lose cloth to keep other infections from entering. Wrapping the cloth too tight could result in tearing or infections to the skin.

At any public fireworks display, paramedics are available to treat wounds. ?Most of the time they?re pretty benign but they should just seek medical care (anyway),? Dr. Frank says.

?If it looks like a serious injury, they should probably come in,? Harlan-Ralls agrees.

There is no time limit in which medical care needs to be sought, as both experts agree that using best judgment is best.

Nick Gingerich, of TNT Fireworks in Washington says proper handling and disposal of fireworks is just as important for safety. His number one tip is not to relight an explosive if it does not go off the first time. Instead, submerge it in water and move onto the next. ?After they?re done shooting off I?d water them down? he says.

Gingerich also suggests watering the area around the fireworks before lighting them. This acts as an extra layer of protection if an accident were to occur. When lighting the fireworks, he says to space them out evenly to keep one from lighting off the next. Keeping them stable and pointed away from houses, trees and people is also essential. ?I would put seem bricks around it to secure it so they don?t tip over,? he says.

Most commercial fireworks shows provide a designated area for people to stand when watching. There is no rule because it depends on the type of firework. ?A lot of people go about 100 feet away, that?s a safe distance I would say,? he says.