The American flag, BBQ, beer, and fireworks are the cornerstones of America's 4th of July traditions. But one of them has the capacity to get out of hand — and it's actually not the beer. Here's my firsthand account:
Fireworks are a class of explosive pyrotechnics that should be handled only by professionals, not amateurs. And even then, professionals may not even be enough to stop things from going awry, like in this video clip below where 28 overall were injured by accident in California.
The question remains: are firework shows worth the possible hazards? On the business side of things, fireworks are booming with an annual revenue of $940 million. The safety side boasts a different perspective.
According to the the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2011, an average of 200 people are sent to the emergency room every day during the month and time period surrounding July 4. 65% of firework related injuries occurred around July 4, with illegal/homemade fireworks involved in the 4 related deaths in 2011. Fireworks are also responsible for structural fires, vehicle fires, and 16,300 other fire-related dangers.
Despite the present risk of accidents, there is plenty of information available which provides tips and laws towards fireworks safety. New York law dictates that fireworks should not be attempted at home, but rather insist people attend shows to view them. Washington encourages a "celebrate safety" campaign. Still, even with information and guidelines towards prevention, you still can't predict the unpredictable. It's one thing if a child or some other inexperienced individual is given a firecracker to set off. It's another when families and friends are outside watching displays when suddenly one flare of light goes wayward or explosives sound off when they aren't meant to.
Clearly, Americans aren't going to stop firing off in July, given that accidents can and do occur every single year. Fireworks are also ingrained in our patriotic tradition. It's difficult to think of a 4th of July without seeing a spark or two bursting in the night air. It appears the safest bet is to either watch at home, or if you do venture out, stay as far away from the display as humanly possible. For example, one fireworks company suggests a minimum 75-100 yard distance for aerial displays.