As the Fourth of July approaches, Michigan consumers can now, for the first time, legally buy more powerful fireworks.
That list includes firecrackers and some consumer-grade devices such as bottle rockets, sky lanterns, and Roman candles.
Consumers are urged practice strict safety measures and use extreme caution when using any type of fireworks.
"Safety must be the top priority and responsibility for both consumers and certified fireworks retailers," said State Fire Marshal Richard Miller. "Celebrations and summer fun can quickly turn into tragedy when there is carelessness in using fireworks."
The National Fire Protection Association reports that, in 2010 alone, an estimated 15,500 reported fires were started by fireworks and 8,600 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 5-14 with more than twice the risk for the general population.
The sale and use of consumer fireworks became legal this year when Gov. Snyder signed into law Public Act 256 of 2011 known as the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act. Previously, only low-impact fireworks - ground-based items such as sparklers, toy snakes, snaps and poppers - were legal for sale and use.
The newly legalized consumer fireworks meet Consumer Product Safety standards and will only be sold to individuals 18 years of age or older. Certified retailers must verify the buyer's age by checking identification such as a driver's license, military identification card, enhanced driver's license or passport. The Michigan Fireworks Safety Act prohibits the use of these fireworks by anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Consumer-grade fireworks may not be used on public, school, or private property of another person unless express permission is obtained to use the fireworks on that property. When fire-related incidents involve consumer, low-impact, or illegal fireworks resulting in property damage, injury or death of another person, individuals are subject to being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years and fines of up to $10,000 or both, depending upon the severity of the crime.
Miller encourages people to enjoy professional fireworks displays by attending events run by their municipalities. If consumer fireworks are used at home, the best way to protect lives and property is to follow these important safety tips:
- Always purchase fireworks from an authorized retailer. An authorized retailer, by law, must have a Consumer Fireworks Certificate prominently displayed in their facility.
- Follow the manufacturer's directions for the proper use of the device. Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper. These are made for professional use.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities, including sparklers. Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back away to a safe distance. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- After fireworks stop burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a fire.
- Allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
- Try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Point or throw fireworks at other people.
- Carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- Purchase or use unlabeled fireworks, experiment with or make your own fireworks.
- Re-light "dud" fireworks that have not fully functioned; (instead, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water).
Miller also warns to never underestimate the dangers of sparklers, as many children are badly burned by sparklers each year. Sparklers present a serious danger because of the high temperature of the wire (as high as 2,000 degrees) during and after use which is hot enough to cause third degree burns.
Sky lanterns are another favorite item used in celebrations, but they can be just as dangerous as they are beautiful. Sky lanterns are classified as an aerial candle which when set aloft, are no longer under the control of the operator. They function much like a miniature hot air balloon and remain aloft for 10 to 12 minutes.
While producing a beautiful visual effect, sky lanterns can pose a significant fire hazard if not used properly. Here are some safety tips when using sky lanterns:
- Carefully read and follow the manufacturer's directions on the proper use of your sky lantern. Always keep a supply of water or a fire extinguisher nearby.
- Do not leave young children unattended around sky lanterns or allow them to operate one. - Do not use sky lanterns when prevailing winds are greater than 5 miles per hour. Check wind direction for the intended flight path of the sky lantern.
- Do not release sky lanterns within five miles of an airport or near dry crops or grass.
- Make sure that trees and homes are not in the intended flight path of the sky lantern.