Guest post from Colin O’Connor, Safety and Emergency Operations Manager, Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL)
In anticipation of upcoming Independence Day celebrations, we at TSL would like to share our top 10 tips for safely handling fireworks this holiday.
TSL is responsible for testing and evaluating technologies that detect and mitigate the threat of explosives and other weapons that may be used against our nation’s transportation systems and infrastructure. For almost 30 years, TSL has remained focused on this enduring mission and we pride ourselves on serving as the preeminent organization for assisting the vast homeland security enterprise in identifying, developing, validating, and deploying threat detection technologies. All of this to say, through decades of working with explosives, our team members are truly experts when it comes to things that go “boom.” A special thanks to George Simoni for collaborating to create the following list to help keep you and your family safe while handling fireworks:
- Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water/hose nearby in case of accidents.
- Designate a safety perimeter. If you have ground-based fireworks like a fountain, spectating from at least 35 feet away is best. For aerial fireworks, you’ll want everyone to move back to a distance of around 150 feet.
- Ditch faulty fireworks. Sometimes fireworks don’t go off, but duds always pose a risk. The important thing to know is that you should never try to relight or approach a failed firework. Let duds sit for 5 -10 minutes before you put them in a bucket of water. This can prevent injury from a delayed explosion and disarm the firework permanently so you can safely dispose of it.
- Supervise children when they are handling sparklers. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet or touching body parts.
- Don’t forget about your pets! Fireworks can be extremely stressful for pets, but there are ways to help reduce their fear and anxiety. Keep your pets indoors. Close the curtains or blinds and turn on the TV or radio to provide some distraction. Treat toys filled with their favorite food (frozen pumpkin puree, peanut butter, and apple sauce are good options) may also help keep their minds busy and distract them from the fireworks.
- Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding.
- Never place a part of your body directly over a firework or hold a firework in your hand when lighting. To safely light fireworks, make sure they are secured on the ground away from people and animals and use a stem lighter such as a grill lighter.
- Only light one firework at a time. Lighting multiple fireworks at the same time increases the risk of accidents occurring from the fuse burning faster than designed.
- Avoid alcohol consumption when handling or using fireworks. This should be pretty self-explanatory.
- Consider safe alternatives to fireworks such as party poppers, bubbles, silly string, or glow sticks.
In addition to these tips, follow all manufacturer’s guidelines for consumer safety and be sure to consult your state and local laws as private firework usage may be restricted in your area.
Have a safe and wonderful 4th of July!
TSL is a part of S&T’s Office of National Laboratories in the Office of Innovation and Collaboration. To learn more about the lab’s mission and recent work, visit our TSL page.