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How to Have a Safe Fourth of July

The 2019 Independence Day celebration is upon us, which means, for the entire four-day weekend, people in San Antonio, Bexar County and all over Texas and the rest of the country will spend a lot of quality time with family and friends, enjoying cookouts, or spending quality time at the beach or by a lake, or at the abundant state or national parks dotting the Texas landscape. The Fourth of July is certainly a summer highlight. At some point during the extra-l0ng weekend, the celebration is likely to include the use of high-level explosives that we all know better as fireworks. After all, “bombs bursting in air” is part of the National Anthem and it’s now a key part of the tradition.

While fireworks are a fun part of the holiday tradition and, in the vast majority of cases, both public and private fireworks displays are conducted safely with no damage, some others don’t go so well and every year, some people are seriously injured. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 11,400 people ended up in the emergency room in 2013 due to injuries they incurred from fireworks. Most of those injuries occurred during the New Year’s holiday and on the Fourth of July.

Fireworks are Dangerous and Sometimes Illegal

While their potential danger should be obvious, many people think of fireworks as toys, which isn’t entirely surprising, given the cartoon-like images on their brightly colored packaging. When you see the cartoons and the comic book-like writing on the boxes, it can be easy to forget that fireworks involve fire and explosives, which makes them inherently dangerous. Remember; within the San Antonio city limits, it is illegal to have fireworks, with the exception of those classified as “sparklers.” However, there is a loophole, since fireworks are legal in Bexar County, which means you need only leave the San Antonio city limits to shoot them off. And the state if Texas doesn’t mind if you have fireworks, which means many people use them statewide, except in a handful of large cities like Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, or any of a number of other areas that may be experiencing drought. If a city or county has a fire ban, you should expect a fireworks ban, as well. It’s always a good idea to assess the conditions where you want to set off your fireworks. If  there is a lot of dry brush around, you might want to think twice before firing off your firecrackers, Roman Candles, M-80s, ground spinners.

Of course, even when they’re used properly, one should always remember that fireworks are explosives capable of causing serious injuries and/or property damage. Most injuries and property damage are  the result of misuse by those who buy and use them. Among the most common mistakes made by users include lighting them improperly, like lighting them while it is in someone’s hand, or lighting them too close to buildings and people. However, sometimes fireworks cause damage when the user does everything right. Some are defectively manufactured or the packaging fails to include adequate legal warnings, and such fireworks can explode prematurely, which means users are unable to get a safe distance away before it explodes. Sometimes, a roman candle or bottle rocket goes on an unexpected flight path due to a manufacturing defect, which can put people and property in danger.

Important Tips for Using Fireworks Safely

How to reduce the risk of injury r property damage when using fireworks

  • Be aware of your surroundings. It is important to remember that things can go wrong when setting off fireworks. Keep that in mind and take precautions. If you plan to head out to the county to shoot off your bottle rockets, make sure you do so on a hard, flat surface in a wide open area, away from homes, cars, and people. Fireworks have the potential to start a brush fire, or to put a neighbor’s house on fire. Use your fireworks as far away from fire hazards as possible. Keep in mind, even though fireworks are legal in Texas, if your fireworks do damage and it can’t be proven defective, you could face heavy fines, or even jail time.
  • Keep fireworks away from children. Be extremely careful around the kids, even when it comes to sparklers, even though they’re considered “safe.” According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees, which means children should never use even sparkers without adult supervision. They should also be instructed to keep the sparklers  at arm’s length at all times. Also, keep a bucket of water available for disposal of used fireworks. All other fireworks should be kept at least 30 feet away from kids at all times.
  • Treat all fireworks with care. Even when used properly, fireworks have the potential to cause serious injury and extensive property damage, so always be sure to read and follow the instructions on the package exactly as written. Never try to modify the instruction or experiment with them to make them work other than as intended. If possible, have a fire extinguisher or water hose nearby, just to be safe. Never put any part of your body directly over fireworks because it could result in serious injury.
  • Beware the “dud.” If a firecracker, roman candle or other firework  doesn’t go off as it should, you should assume it’s malfunctioning and don’t try to relight or reignite it. According to safety experts, you should just wait a few minutes before disposing of it in a bucket of water. Sometimes, a defective firework will have a delayed fire, which means attempting to relight one can become a disaster rather quickly.
  • Dispose of fireworks safely. To dispose of used fireworks safely, you should have a large bucket, can or barrel filled with water nearby. Once you dispose of your used fireworks in the water, leave them in that water overnight, just to be on the safe side.

Before you make fireworks part of your holiday, The Hill Law Firm would like everyone to be safe, so that everyone to make it through the weekend safely. If you follow the above advice, everyone can be safe and secure this Fourth of July holiday.

Posted in: Commercial Litigation

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