With many communities cancelling fireworks displays this year, more Wisconsinites cooped up in their homes because of COVID-19 are taking July 4th celebrations into their own hands. Not only do we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones from coronavirus infection, fireworks also pose a danger. If you have not already noticed the increasing sounds of successive firecrackers, you likely have heard fireworks sales have skyrocketed across the country.
Noticing the Fireworks Warning Signs
“The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to urge families not to buy fireworks for their own or their children’s use, as thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured each year while using consumer fireworks,” said David Sickels, MD, FACEP, Medical Director of Emergency Services at Ascension NE Wisconsin-St. Elizabeth Campus, a Be Safe Wisconsin partner.
“The most common injuries are burns, followed by cuts, bumps and bruises,” Dr. Sickels added. Other medical professionals note people have lost fingers and hands as well as experienced vision and hearing loss from inappropriate use of fireworks.
Each community has its own ordinances, but most fireworks are illegal in Wisconsin. If it leaves the ground, it is most likely prohibited. Some cities allow snakes and sparklers, but usually nothing more powerful. Medical experts advise against having “fun” with fireworks this holiday weekend.
“Fireworks regulations are in place to protect us,” said Zachary Baeseman, MD, family medicine practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Wild Rose and Waupaca, a Be Safe Wisconsin partner. “Use fireworks as directed, be aware of where and how they’re being used and make sure that kids don’t have access to fireworks without adult supervision. Alcohol and fireworks don’t mix. Don’t light explosives if you’ve been drinking, especially with kids around.”
Paramedics and EMTs with Gold Cross Ambulance, a Be Safe Wisconsin partner, are bracing for an uptick in calls over the next week for injuries related to fireworks.
“We anticipate more calls compared to previous years starting the day before the holiday, and we expect it to last an entire week with many people taking vacation and staying close to home the week after the holiday,” said Katie Halbach, Community Outreach Coordinator at Gold Cross. She anticipates mostly teenagers and adults will land in the emergency room after setting off fireworks at holiday gatherings.
Using Fireworks Safely
Halbach said her team is working to keep community members engaged and educated on fireworks safety on Gold Cross social media channels – in particular, Facebook and Instagram.
If you must put on a light show for family and friends or if you find yourself in a sparking situation, here is some more expert advice:
- Read and understand warnings and label instructions, noting how high fireworks will go (so they don’t shoot into a tree) and the space needed to set them off (so they don’t hit people or pets standing nearby).
- Use fireworks only outside and on a concrete surface far from flammable materials such as dry leaves and wood or petroleum-based hydraulic liquids.
- Wear eye protection, making sure the glasses are rated for impact.
- Make sure others are out of range before lighting fireworks and step back once they are lit.
- Avoid reigniting a “dud” firework, wetting it down before approaching it.
- Have water at the ready for any mishaps; a garden hose and a bucket filled with water.
“Many people don’t realize that firecrackers often times have a delayed reaction, and it will go off once a person runs up to it to reignite it,” Halbach noted. “Wet it down first.”
Handling a Burn Emergency
Not only does available water help with dousing any fire that might start, but also it assists with burns. “It stops the burn process,” Halbach added. “Running water, instead of a bucket of water, is best because it is a consistent stream of cold water that cools the area. We suggest cooling the burn with water for 10 to 15 minutes – until first responders arrive.” She said to avoid using an ice pack, which could lead to a frostbite burn.
She suggests burn victims call 911 or go to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. “Burns can affect the hands and joints with swelling, and there could be vascular damage.” If there is blood, be sure to apply pressure to the affected area.
Emergency officials also are concerned with the heat index rising this weekend. “When overwhelmed by hot-weather conditions, people are at greater risk of poor decision-making and the subsequent accidents that result,” Halbach said. Fire departments are on high alert as are first responders.
Seeing Fireworks Safely
“The safest way to prevent fireworks related injuries and deaths is to leave the fireworks displays to trained professionals,” said the Wisconsin Department of Health Services on its Fireworks Safety Tips webpage.
Injury prevention specialists hope more people choose to attend community fireworks shows in the Fox Cities to celebrate freedom on our nation’s birthday. Of course, there’s always televised fireworks, if you want to “oooh” and “ahhh” in front of your TV from the comfort – and safety – of your home.
Preventing an Explosion of COVID Cases
Even if you are keeping your physical distance from potentially explosive objects, fireworks might not be the most dangerous encounter you will have this holiday weekend. Public health and medical professionals remind us of these safety precautions to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus.
- Take part in social distancing, 6 feet away from one another
- Avoid handshakes and high-fives
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol
- Clean and disinfect common surfaces
- Avoid people who are sick
- Stay away from others if you are sick
Wearing face masks also is recommended when venturing from home – fireworks or not.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says cloth face coverings help slow the transmission of COVID-19 by people who unknowingly have the virus. When they breathe, speak, cough or sneeze, virus particles will be trapped in their mask, protecting other people from potentially being infected. Scientists believe respiratory droplets are what cause the spread of COVID-19.
“Keep in mind, an estimated 25 percent of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms,” Dr. Baeseman added. “That said, people wearing cloth face coverings play an important role in curbing cases.”
Choosing Safety Freely
With a combination of concerns, experts say avoid letting a firework injury weaken your safety stance this Independence Day. You have the freedom to choose to stay safe.