Each Independence Day safety officials renew their advice regarding consumers who buy and use fireworks: Make sure everyone involved knows the items are not toys and are not to be used by children.
“I want to make sure people are aware that fireworks are for people 21 years of age and older,” Joseph Thomas, the state fire marshal, told me last week. Thomas noted young people suffer far too many hand and eye injuries because they are victims of fireworks-related accidents or because they have inappropriate access to fireworks.
The attraction is clear: They’re bright, colorful and noisy. Adults use them to celebrate, and children want to be part of the fun. The sad fact is that, in the month surrounding each Fourth of July, people make more trips to hospital emergency rooms because of fireworks mishaps. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated the total in 2013 at 11,400 injuries; the safety commission said one in four children hurt in fireworks-related incidents were bystanders at backyard fireworks displays.
The commission further states 240 people on average suffer fireworks-related injuries each day in the month surrounding July Fourth. Even sparklers — legal in most states where other fireworks can’t be sold — burn at 2,000 degrees and can cause serious burns.
Here is the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s top 10 list of what not to do when it comes to fireworks:
— Never allow young children to play with or light fireworks.
— Don’t buy fireworks wrapped in brown paper, which may be a sign of fireworks made for professional displays that could pose a danger to consumers.
— Always have an adult supervise fireworks in use.
— Don’t stand directly over a device when lighting the fuse; back up to a safe distance after igniting.
— Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
— Never re-light or pick up fireworks that haven’t gone off.
— Never point or throw fireworks at anyone.
— Keep a bucket of water handy in case of fire.
— Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in glass or metal containers.
— Soak spent devices with plenty of water before discarding to prevent trash fires.
If your neighbor’s fireworks malfunction and burn down your house, your homeowner’s insurance likely will cover your loss — your insurer probably would try to recover the payout from your neighbor. If your fireworks burn down your neighbor’s house, you may be responsible for the property damage and suppression costs; however, your policy might only defend but not cover the loss. The Maine Bureau of Insurance can answer detailed questions at 207-624-8475. Types of coverage in typical homeowner’s policies are found on the Bureau’s website .
Check first to make sure fireworks are legal in your community. The state fire marshal’s office website has a map showing 39 Maine communities where fireworks are banned. If in doubt, call the fire marshal at 207-626-3870 or check with your local fire department.
In most Maine communities, fireworks use by consumers is a given. As Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas put it, “if it’s going to happen, let’s make it happen as safely as possible.”
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.