The 4th of July is full of laughter, music, and of course, fireworks.  You spend a lot of time planning the perfect holiday, so don’t let yours end on a bad note by buying deadly fireworks. The National Council on Fireworks Safety (NCFS), stresses that you should only buy consumer fireworks from legitimate sources.

Example of warning label on consumer fireworks.  Photo:  www.city-data.com

Example of warning label on consumer fireworks. Photo: www.city-data.com

Consumer fireworks can be easily identified, as they are packaged in bright colors and have safety warnings that include the country it was manufactured.   Firecrackers, fountains, skyrockets,  shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets fall into this category.  There are other types of consumer fireworks called “Safe and Sane” which typically means that the firecracker does not leave the ground, shoot up into the air, or explode.  Note that  the definition of “Safe and Sane” differs in different municipalities.  “Safe and Sane”fireworks include (but are not limited to) sparklers, smoke balls, crackling ground items (like snappers), and snakes.

Now, just because the fireworks you have seem to fall into the consumer fireworks category, you’re not out of the woods yet.  Make sure that you purchase your devices from a licensed store, tent, or stand.  Never buy fireworks from any other source, such as someone’s house or someone off the street.  By doing so, you run the risk of the fireworks either being illegal or professional-grade fireworks that could cause serious bodily harm or deadly injury.  Keep in mind that some fireworks are illegal to own, period.  Others are illegal to use because of local ordinances.

If you come across fireworks that are unpackaged or are brown paper wrapped, chances are they are illegal.  A number of them are handmade or either manufactured in unregulated factories.  M-80s, Quarter Stick, and Cherry Bombs are common ones.

Red M-80 Explosive Photo: kcconfidential.com

Red M-80 Explosive
Photo: kcconfidential.com

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, there are a few tell-tale signs that an explosive might be illegal:

  • It resembles a roll of coins with a fuse
  • It consists of a cardboard tube or oddly shaped item wrapped in brown paper and filled with an explosive material.
  • It is red, silver, or brown in color
  • It may be 1 to 6 inches long and up to an inch or more in diameter.

    Easy to identify as homemade M80 Explosive Photo:  sfexaminer.com

    Easy to identify as homemade M80 Explosive
    Photo: sfexaminer.com

You can be cited or even fined in some areas for having these types of explosives.  Not to mention, you run a grave risk of serious bodily harm.  A simple google search of “illegal fireworks” can help put the potential injury that these devices can cause into perspective for you.  Warning:  some of the images you may see can be quite gruesome. I mean really gory!  It’s important to note that data shows that even  “legal” fireworks can be unsafe if proper safety precautions aren’t taken.

Knowing where to buy your fireworks and the different types that are out there is the first step in making sure your Happy 4th of July stays happy.  Keep your family safe by purchasing legal, consumer fireworks to make sure you end your your Independence Day has a happy ending.

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