Monday, June 29, 2009

Fireworks Safety Tips

The 4th of July is just around the corner. Celebrate, have fun, but be safe.

People everywhere are fascinated by fireworks -- by the mystery and splendor that light the night sky or turn a backyard into a festival of light and sound. Like nothing else, fireworks can excite, thrill and amaze us. But as dazzling as fireworks can be, they can also be harmful if used improperly.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety (NCFS) urges you to put safety first when celebrating this Fourth of July. Legal fireworks are safer than ever, in part because of stringent federal safety standards enacted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1976. The incidence of fireworks-related injuries has dropped dramatically during the past 10 years, according to Ann Crampton, executive director of the NCFS. But she says it can be cut further by following a few simple guidelines.

"Only use legal fireworks," she says. "The key, of course, is being able to recognize what's legal and what's not. Legal fireworks conform to the standards. Illegal ones often don't."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires that legal fireworks show the name of the item, the name of the manufacturer or distributor and easy-to-read cautionary labeling and instructions for proper use. Currently, 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, allow the use of some or all types of consumer fireworks.

"Commonly used fireworks include cones, fountains, and sparklers," Ms. Crampton says. "Before setting off any fireworks, contact your local police or fire department to make sure fireworks are allowed in your area."

Illegal devices include M80s, M100s and silver salutes. They have been federally banned since 1966 because of the large amounts of illegal explosives they contain. "Don't confuse these items with legal, consumer fireworks. Illegal devices will usually be unlabeled, will not bear a caution statement and will not list the manufacturer's name," cautioned Ms. Crampton. "Illegal explosive devices are extremely dangerous and can cause serious injuries. If you find any illegal items, or know of anyone selling them, contact the police immediately."

If you choose to use consumer fireworks to celebrate this year's Fourth of July festivities, remember the following safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:

  • A responsible adult should supervise all fireworks activities.
  • Never give fireworks to young children.
  • Always purchase fireworks from reliable sources.
  • Follow label directions carefully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.
  • Light them one at a time then move back quickly.
  • Don't experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Observe local laws and use common sense.
  • Sparklers, fountains and other items that many states allow for use by consumers are not appropriate when a large crowd is present.
  • If attending a community display, leave your own fireworks at home -- there will be plenty of excitement provided by the display.

For more information on Fireworks safety, visit the National Council on Fireworks Safety web site.

More 4th of July Articles

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Essential Information About the American Flag

June 14 is the American flag's official birthday and each year Americans throughout the country celebrate in Flag Day ceremonies on this day. The Stars and Stripes first flew in Flag Day festivities in 1861 in Hartford, Connecticut and the first national observance of Flag Day took place on the one hundred year anniversary of the flag -- June 14, 1877. President Woodrow Wilson first made Flag Day official in 1916, but it took Congress and President Harry Truman until 1949 to make this day a permanent observance. Although not celebrated as a Federal holiday, Americans everywhere continue to honor the flag and the ideals she represents to them on June 14th through school programs and civic observances.

With this being flag day week, and with the 4th of July just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at this important symbol. Most of these articles are reprinted from my books The Great American Handbook and US Citizenship for Dummies. I hope you enjoy and learn some interesting new things about the American flag in the process.