Fireworks safety takes on some added steps this year with the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are not the usual public displays of fireworks to attend this year in Wyandotte County. A lot of cities have canceled fireworks displays, as they are trying to avoid large public gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Some safety tips are offered this year by the Unified Government Health Department, the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department, and the University of Kansas Health System.
Some families may not be able to afford fireworks at home this year, but doctors at the Burnett Burn Unit at the University of Kansas Health System said earlier this week at a news conference that they think there will be more home fireworks celebrations.
Added to the regular fireworks safety tips this year for those who celebrate at home are some health precautions.
Some new health safety risks to avoid
There is a new mask ordinance now in effect in Wyandotte County, according to Janell Friesen, spokesman for the Unified Government Health Department. It applies to public places, indoors and outdoors, and when people are within 6 feet of others who are not in their household.
The UG newsletter suggests that if eating with others who are not usually in your household, wear a mask until it’s time to eat, then put the mask back on as soon as you are finished, washing your hands before and after. Also try to keep 6 feet apart. While mask orders may not apply at home, doctors are advising residents that it’s wise to keep their distance with anyone they don’t usually come into contact with.
Another hazard this year could be due to hand sanitizer. If using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, make sure it dries before you light the fireworks. Alcohol-based substances are flammable. Make sure the fireworks aren’t pointed at others, and make sure they’re not held in hands.
“It’s always a good idea for people to look into fireworks safety at this time of year to help keep their family and kids safe,” Friesen said.
It’s always good to brush up on fireworks safety before you celebrate with fireworks, she added.
Burn unit saw several fireworks injuries last year
Dr. Dhaval Bhavsar, a surgeon at KU Health System who works in the Burnett Burn Unit, said in a news conference on June 30 that the emergency department at KU saw several fireworks injuries last year.
Dr. Bhavsar’s advice: “Be safe, watch out for kids. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t drink and use fireworks.”
Sparklers caused the most injuries, according to Dr. Bhavsar. Small children may sometimes touch a hot sparkler, or turn to one side when holding a sparkler, accidentally burning someone else.
Sometimes the hand and face was injured by fireworks, he said. Often, a firework did not ignite immediately, and someone went to look at it and light it again as it exploded, he added.
Seventy-six percent of the injuries were to males, he added.
It’s also important for parents to make sure any fireworks not being used are locked away from children. One case involved a child who was alone at home one day and got into some M80s, then lost most of his hand.
Jessica Lovell of KU Health System suggested these safe alternatives to fireworks: Confetti poppers, glow-in-the-dark bubbles, glow sticks, silly string, glow paint, color flashlights and rocket straws.
Fire marshal offers safety tips
An added hazard this year is high temperatures causing dry and combustible grasses in areas where fireworks are being discharged.
In Wyandotte County, fireworks may be discharged on private property from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 2 through July 4, according to John Droppelmann, Kansas City, Kansas, fire marshal.
While the discharge of “consumer grade” fireworks are permitted in Kansas City, Kansas, between July 2 and July 4, the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department urges citizens and visitors to be cautious when using them, according to Droppelmann. Each year nearly 10,000 people nationally are injured as a result of the improper use of fireworks.
Following these safety tips will help to reduce the potential for injuries while using consumer grade fireworks:
• Purchase fireworks from reliable sources, never discharge homemade or illegal fireworks.
• Have a responsible adult in charge and never give fireworks to children.
• Always read and follow label instructions for the safe discharge of fireworks.
• Prepare a safe environment outdoors for the shooting off of fireworks by selecting an area clear of other fireworks, combustible materials (dried wood, grass, or structures) and cut the grass low in the areas will fireworks will be discharged.
• Have water readily available such as garden hose or bucket; pump sprayers are reasonably priced and portable should a grass fire ignite. (This year the grass is very dry so be prepared to put out spot fires caused by fireworks.)
• Dispose of fireworks debris in a non-combustible container and do not place it near or in a structure; leave it curbside and soak thoroughly with water.
• Never carry fireworks in your pockets.
• When lighting fireworks, never position any part of your body over the fireworks.
• Do not shoot/point fireworks at people or animals.
• Light fireworks one at a time and wait until it discharges; never attempt to re-light a device that did not discharge the first time. Wait 20 minutes to approach the “dud” and soak it with water.
• Never shoot fireworks in or from metal or glass containers.
• Drive with a heightened awareness during this time as children will be distracted while using fireworks and may dart out from driveways and between vehicles.
Kansas City, Kansas, municipal ordinances prohibit fireworks in certain situations:
• It is illegal to shoot fireworks from, on, or under a vehicle whether it is moving or parked.
• It is illegal to throw or place any fireworks in any gathering of persons.
• It is illegal to shoot fireworks on any public roadway, alley, or sidewalk; within 150 feet of a fireworks stand, within 100 feet of a gas station, or within 1,000 feet of a hospital or home for the aged.
• It is illegal to ignite or discharge any fireworks in any building.
• Illegal fireworks include: bottle rockets, missile-type rockets (with guidance fins) and sky lanterns.
• Fireworks may only be discharged between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.
The Fire Department advises residents that they may report any illegal fireworks by calling 911 or the Arson Hot-Line 913-573-5555.