Toni Stauffer: Time to light up those fireworks
Before writing this, I had no idea about the fireworks laws in Alabama. I just knew I could buy them and make them go bang. Did you know there is a fireworks season in Alabama? Fireworks are only allowed between June 20 to July 10 and Dec. 15 to Jan. 2. Also, only certain kinds of fireworks are allowed.
Alabama only allows bottle rockets, fire crackers, Roman candles, smoke bombs, wheels, and spinners. Ground salute fireworks with more than two grains of explosives, or any purchased by mail order are illegal. Since 1966, cherry bombs, silver salutes, and M-80s have been banned by federal law because of the large amounts of explosive materials in them. If you’re younger than 16, you must have an adult with you to purchase fireworks, and state law also prohibits fireworks being sold to anyone who is seems ‘intoxicated or irresponsible.’
When I was a kid, adults, or older kids, would light sparklers and hand them to us. We’d jump and laugh as the brilliant, colorful sparks hissed, lighting up the night and our faces. Heck, I’d go through an entire box by myself. When I became a mom, I did the same thing with my kids. It turns out that sparklers are not harmless. Fireworks burn at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and in 2016, sparklers caused a reported 1,300 hand and finger injuries. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), firework injuries can lead to extensive scarring, hospitalization, surgeries, and even amputations.
Here are some tips that should help you have a safe time with fireworks. The tips are from the ASSH, the commentary is from me.
1 – Never consume drugs and alcohol when using fireworks.
So, someone has to stay sober to be the designated fireworks igniter. I’ve seen more than my share of drunken bottle rocket wars. It was downright scary, folks, and as we know, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye to a bottle rocket.
2 – Don’t let children handle fireworks.
We know it’s going to happen, especially if Number 1 is ignored. If you don’t want your kid to be burned, or blinded, or lose a finger or hand, or all of the above, please just let them watch. No kid wants to be known as one-hand Nick, or four-finger Francine, or Scarface, even if that last one is a really cool movie.
3 – Always wear eye protection when using fireworks.
Eye protection does not mean pulling down your baseball cap. It also doesn’t mean sunglasses. You should use a pair of actual safety glasses, but I don’t see many people doing this. It’s like people not wearing helmets when riding bikes, because they think helmets ain’t cool. Those kinds of bicyclists think they won’t get hurt, but those are some of the ones who end up with permanent brain damage, or dead. Save your sight and wear some safety glasses.
4- Never hold a firework that is not meant to be held.
In other words, put the Roman candle on the ground, don’t shoot it off in your hand like I’ve seen lots of people do. If it explodes while you’re holding it, which can and does happen, then it could be bye-bye hand.
5 – Light only one firework at a time and only light them outside, never in the direction of a person.
Remember the bottle rocket story? Don’t do that. One year, some friends I knew loaded up a metal barrel with fireworks. They put a bunch of fuel-soaked wadded-up newspapers in the bottom, tossed in a match and ran like heck. They were lucky and escaped unharmed, but only after dodging and ducking flaming, twirling, and screaming missiles. So, don’t do that either.