Fireworks, Safety, and Public Events – 4th of July 2018
If you are planning a fun-filled time with family and friends, be sure you are taking the right precautions prior to festivities.
Did you know, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):
- Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires cause an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage.
- In 2017, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 12,900 people for fireworks-related injuries; 54% of those injuries were to the extremities and 36% were to the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for more than one-third (36%) of the estimated 2017 injuries. These injury estimates were obtained or derived from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2017 Fireworks Annual Report.
On July 4th 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.
When local governments are responsible for overall planning and control of a public fireworks display, removing all liability is difficult at best. Public entity risk managers don’t want to be the roadblock to having traditional community celebrations. All affected departments and services should work together to address risk when hosting pyrotechnic displays. As we read about in the news from Cleveland, public gatherings bring a complex configuration of security challenges; from parking to medical services and crowd control.
Fireworks and Insurance
It is important to check with your insurer to see if you are properly covered for liability and damage to your home or business resulting from the use of fireworks. Fireworks are illegal in most incorporated towns and cities, so you need to check if your policy excludes fireworks-related coverage. Homeowner policies typically exclude damages caused by illegal activities and may exclude coverage for fireworks completely.
If you live in an area where fireworks are legal, ask whether your policy calls for specific safety precautions before using fireworks on your property. Structural damage to your property may be covered under a standard homeowners policy should any lit fireworks land on your roof or spark a grass fire, for example. However, it is important to note possible repercussions of filing a claim. If you file two or more claims, your rates could rise when your policy renews or your policy may not be renewed at all.
The Harmful Side of Fireworks
The use of fireworks comes with risk and the potential for serious injuries. Even sparklers can burn as hot as 1,200 degrees, which can cause severe burns.
Personal liability typically protects you and your family for negligence if someone is injured or someone else’s property is damaged. Additionally, “medical payments” in a homeowner’s policy can protect you from medical expenses in the event guests are injured by fireworks on your property. Be sure to verify the monetary limits outlined in your home insurance policy and look into additional coverage, if needed.
Here are some safety tips to review before your Independence Day celebration:
- Fireworks should only be used outdoors. Light fireworks in a clear area away from houses or flammable materials such as dry leaves or grass.
- Make sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Never ignite fireworks in a container.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of fireworks emergencies.
- Do not relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Wait 20 minutes and then soak them in water before throwing them away.
- Do not place any part of your body over a firework while lighting it.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Know your fireworks and read the caution label before igniting.
The best way to prevent fireworks-related damages is to attend a public display, but if you cannot resist celebrating with your own fireworks, make sure you are protected from potential fire damage and injury.
For Any Public Event
Before any public event, identify where you and your family will meet after the event. If at a public venue or large, outside event, select a specific spot to meet up should your party become separated.
Should the party become separated due to individual activities, and the agreed-upon meeting place is off-limits due to security closure, identify a secondary location beforehand, and assure everyone in your party knows how to get to the location.
If your primary meeting place is destroyed, or access to it is cut off, plan to meet at this secondary, pre- arranged location. Often community centers or schools themselves are “designated evacuation centers.” If you are unable to identify such centers in your area, contact your local Red Cross for assistance.
To determine the best secondary meeting place for you and your family, consider patterns of movement, routines, schedules, times of year, etc. for each family member. Take into account what options each person may have if:
- They have no personal means of transportation
- They depend on public transportation and it is out of commission
- The secondary meeting place is inaccessible; does a third alternative exist?
NOTE: As with all meeting places, make sure everyone is clear on how they are going to get to each one. If you have a car, drive to your meeting places a few times. Since you may not have a car during an emergency you should walk to each location at least once. (Your perspective and observations are different from the comfort of a car than they are on foot.) Notice landmarks and how they might guide you if street lights or roads are out. While landmarks are easy reference points, make note of their relationship to other things because landmarks may be destroyed or otherwise unrecognizable.
For more information on how to prepare for any disaster or crisis, download our no-fee book here.