Fireworks safety tips from burn center expert

Woman and child holding sparklers at night

Fireworks are a key part of celebrating America’s birthday, and HCA Healthcare wants to make sure the reveling stays safe.

We’ve tapped Fred Mullins, MD, of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, for tips on how to mark this special occasion injury-free.

“Injuries from fireworks are preventable,” said Dr. Mullins, medical director of the burn center in Augusta, Ga. “This time of year we see burns that are minor, as well as patients who have both deep burns and traumatic injuries from the explosion of a large firework.”

First and foremost, Dr. Mullins recommends leaving the fireworks show to professionals. However, if you do decide to set off your own fireworks, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Create a “blast zone” that is away from structures, people, dry grass and other flammable items
  • Designate someone as the safety person, someone else as the shooter and someone else as the cleanup crew
  • Ensure a fire extinguisher, hose or bucket or water is nearby
  • Make sure the “shooter” is not wearing loose clothing that could ignite and follows all directions on the fireworks label
  • If the device does not have a warning and/or instructions label, do not fire it
  • Never use fireworks of any kind indoors
  • Light fireworks one at a time
  • Never throw fireworks. A malfunctioning fuse could cause the item to go off in your hand.
  • Never light fireworks held in someone’s hand.
  • Never stand over an item that does not fire
  • Remember that fireworks, especially sparklers and smaller items that stay on the ground, are still very hot, and therefore dangerous, after they have been used.

A little bit of extra precaution will also go a long way toward staying safe while grilling out during the Fourth of July holiday. “Safety starts before the grill is lit,” Dr. Mullins said.

“Always make sure your grill is at least 10 feet away from your buildings or bushes that could catch fire,” he said. “Then check your gas lines to make sure there are no leaks.”

When you are ready to light the grill, make sure to keep the lid open, and never use gasoline to help fuel the fire.

“That’s a recipe for an explosion,” Dr. Mullins said. “I have seen many very severe burns from grills that exploded.”

Other grilling tips include:

  • Use utensils with long handles to stay clear of the fire
  • Dispose of hot coals properly by dousing with water and stirring the ashes.
  • Keep lighter fluid container away from the grill.
  • Utility/Barbeque lighters are not safe for children and should not be left outdoors where the elements may weaken or damage the plastic.
  • Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when operating a grill.
  • Replace nicked or scratched connectors.
  • Always turn on utility light before you turn on gas or propane.
  • Always shut off propane tank valve when not in use.
  • Never use a match to check for leaks.
  • Keep gas hoses as far away from grease and hot surfaces as possible.

For more information about burn care, please call 706-863-9595 or visit the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital here.

Doctors Hospital, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare, is home of the largest burn center in the United States – the Joseph M. Still Burn Center.

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