June 26, 2014

Play it safe for the Fourth

— The Fourth of July will be here in one week as America celebrates its founding with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

It was 238 years ago that Founding Father John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that the Fourth “... ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Heeding his words, citizens have marked the founding of this country with celebrations and fireworks. But celebrating with the latter comes with some risk.

All fireworks, whether they’re sparklers (which are legal) or M-80s (which are not), can be considered dangerous. So there are some common-sense guidelines we urge for those planning on setting off fireworks for the Fourth.

A few years ago Georgia began allowing the sale of certain types of pyrotechnics — basically you cannot have a big device that has an airborne projectile or has a report or explosion. The sale and use of most consumer types of fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs, is still illegal in Georgia and punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail, according to state Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. Legal fireworks are limited to such items as sparklers and fountains.

If the package reads “warning,” rather than “caution,” that’s something that is not allowed in Georgia, Hudgens said.

He added that in a typical year, two-thirds to three-fourths of all fireworks injuries occur during the four-week period surrounding Independence Day. On the Fourth of July itself, fireworks usually start more fires nationwide than all other causes combined.

Hudgens’ office offers the following safety tips for using legal fireworks:

• Always read and follow label directions.

• Only use fireworks outdoors.

• Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks.

• Only light one firework at a time.

• Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks; wait 20 minutes, then immerse in water.

• Fireworks should only be used with close adult supervision.

• Never give fireworks to small children.

• Be sure to have water handy.

• Never throw fireworks at another person.

• Remember to call your local 911 for emergencies.

Better yet, why not play it safe and let the professionals do it. On Fridayy,  there will be fireworks displays at Heritage Point Park in Dalton and in Chatsworth at the Murray County Recreation Department on Saturday, July 5. Both shows begin around 9:30 p.m.

These displays will be bigger and showier, not to mention safer, than anything you try to put on at home.