Nothing says Independence Day like fireworks on the Fourth of July, but there are safety issues to consider when the average American wants to celebrate with some backyard pyrotechnics.
According to the National Fire Prevention Association:
- In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 total structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 60 civilian injuries and $36 million in direct property damage.
- In 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for fireworks related injuries; 57% of 2010 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 37% were to the head.
- The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 5-14, with more than twice the risk for the general population.
- On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.
Needless to say, there are laws governing the sale and use of fireworks and so the Pennsylvania State Police has released some information that every resident should know before they break out the bottle rockets.
Here's a handy FAQ from the PSP:
Q: Can I use fireworks in Pennsylvania?
A: State law prohibits the use of Consumer and Display Fireworks in Pennsylvania without a permit. Items defined as “ground and hand-held sparkling devices,” “novelties” and “toy caps” in American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) Standard 87-1 are not currently regulated by state law; therefore, their sale and use are permissible. These non-fireworks are the only types allowed to be sold from tents, stands, convenience stores, retail establishments and other various outlets not licensed by the Department of Agriculture.
Q: Can I buy regular fireworks – not sparklers or novelty items -- under any conditions?
A: This answer depends on whether or not you are a Pennsylvania resident. Pennsylvania residents may purchase fireworks only if they have a display permit issued by the municipality where the display will take place.
An amendment to the Fireworks Law (effective November 30, 2004) makes it legal, upon proof of out-of-state residency status, to purchase fireworks from a facility licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture provided said fireworks are transported directly out of state by the seller or purchaser.
Q: How do I get a permit for a fireworks display?
A: The Commonwealth does not issue permits for firework displays and does not oversee the issuance of permits by the municipalities. A permit for a fireworks display must be obtained from the municipality where the display will take place. The municipality is the only governing body with authority to issue this permit under reasonable rules and regulations adopted by them.
Upon inspection of the display site by the fire chief, or other designated officer, and the posting of a bond of at least $500 for any possible damages, the municipality may issue a permit to a person they deem competent.
If you are hiring someone to perform the display, that person or corporation must be registered with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. If you are not hiring someone, you can attempt to obtain the status of "competent operator" from the municipality where the display will take place.
Questions concerning display permits should be directed to the appropriate municipality.
Any business entity that performs, provides or supervises fireworks displays or exhibitions for profit must register annually with the Office of Attorney General. For more information, contact the Office of Attorney General, Criminal Law Division, at 717-787-3391.
Q: Who enforces the Fireworks Law?
A: Any law enforcement officer with jurisdiction may make an arrest and confiscate fireworks under the Fireworks Law. To report a violation of the Fireworks Law contact the police department servicing your area as would to report any other crime.
Q: What precautions should people take when using permitted novelty items or sparklers?
A: It’s best to leave any type of fireworks to the experts. But if you decide to use permitted novelty items or sparklers:
- Always read and follow the instructions carefully.
- Use items outside in an open area.
- A responsible adult should supervise all activities.
- Only light one item at a time.
- Place used items in a bucket of water prior to properly disposing of them.
Q: What else should I know about fireworks?
A: Cherry bombs, M-80s, M-100s, silver salutes and other illegal fireworks are all extremely dangerous. In addition, fireworks constructed from mail order kits are illegal and dangerous to assemble or use. Never attempt to make your own fireworks or tamper with fireworks.