JOPLIN, Mo. —
Andrew Roughton, chief of the Webb City Fire Department, knows the statistics of what age group gets injured the most by fireworks every year. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it's adults ages 25 to 44. About 40 percent of people injured fall into that demographic; the next highest is those 45 to 64 years old at 14 percent.
In other words, kids aren't the ones injured most on Independence Day. Still, parents can't supervise their children enough, Roughton said.
"Young children should never play with or ignite fireworks," Roughton said. "They need to be supervised by parents all the time."
Fireworks retailers agree. Tom Wilson, warehouse manager for Black Market Fireworks, said employees urge parents to be involved with close supervision.
"Everything here needs adult supervision," Wilson said. "We want parents to be involved with shooting them off, so that kids grow up knowing how to handle them properly."
'What's that do?'
One of the most common questions parents ask is what each firework does. Wilson said employees are trained to know exactly how one will detonate so they can help parents make better choices.
A large UFO-shaped firework, for example, looks like it will take off into the air. While it has some alien-like effects, the firework is a fountain.
"Kids are drawn to what looks neat and cool," Wilson said. "We have shot off virtually every item here, and we love to help parents pick out safe items."
While there is no kids section at most fireworks stores, there are entries that can be considered "starters," such as small, rolling tanks, chickens and snappers.
Sparklers are also considered in that starter bracket. These fireworks can run hot, Roughton said -- as high as 1,800 to 2,000 degrees. And the CPSC in 2009 said that sparklers were involved in 57 percent of injuries to children 5 and younger.
Wilson said some sparklers have limited safety features built in. Most have bamboo cores that cool down quickly after running out, and certain brands shoot sparks straight away from the wand, instead of in many directions.
But parental involvement goes a long way in preventing sparkler injuries, Wilson said. Parents should make sure kids are old enough to understand the high heat at the end of the stick and should be the ones lighting the sparkler, Wilson said.
"We want parents and kids alike to have a safe and fun holiday," Wilson said. "Doing that requires training and parents teaching their kids how to handle fireworks."
The CPSC recommended following these steps when lighting fireworks, no matter how many kids are around:
- Never allow children to play with or light fireworks. Roughton said that there's no set age for allowing kids to light them -- it has to do with a child's maturity level.
- Never try to re-light a firework or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy.
- Make sure fireworks are legal and of high quality before using. Wilson said Black Market orders stock from reputable companies known for quality products.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.