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Fireworks: Unsafe and insane

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

Safe and sane? Hardly. Personal fireworks injured 7,000 Americans and sparked 22,500 fires in 2008 alone.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of those who feel otherwise, let me politely suggest that we refrain from the use of personal fireworks this Fourth of July, both for the sake of our homeowners insurance rates and the safety of those around us.

I know, I know: What about the rockets’ red glare? The bombs bursting in air?

Dudes, there was a reason Francis Scott Key included explosives in his 1814 poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry,” on which our national anthem is based: The British Royal Navy was shelling the heck out of Fort McHenry on Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.

Did he really need to add the disclaimer, “Don’t try this at home?”

Allow me to rain on America’s most dangerous patriotic display: According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 7,000 people for fireworks-related injuries in 2008, half of those injuries to the extremities and a third to the head.

That same year, fireworks caused an estimated 22,500 reported fires, including 1,400 total structure fires, 500 vehicle fires and 20,600 outside and other fires. These fires alone resulted in one death, 40 injuries and $42 million in direct property damage.

And 2008 represented a 10-year low for fireworks-related fires!

Sadly, fireworks are not an equal-opportunity hazard; they most often target children and teens (and though I’ve seen no figures, I’m betting a fair number of pets as well). Two out of five Americans injured by fireworks are younger than 15.

Home insurance companies are well aware of our national obsession with pyrotechnics of course, and take that risk into consideration when setting our rates. Thus, unarmed homeowners pay more for homeowners insurance so the neighbors’ kids can maim themselves and each other.

Did I somehow miss the patriotic part of all this?

While you may assume that the fire coverage in our home insurance policy is also fireworks-proof, some insurance companies may balk at paying a fire claim if the personal fireworks involved are outlawed in your state, county or city, even if they were purchased elsewhere.

Public and civic fireworks displays, while hardly “safe” given that they account for 6 percent of fireworks-related injuries, provide a far better way to recreate Keys’ star-spangled moment than arming the kids with explosives that can cause permanent injury or worse.

Personal fireworks are unsafe and insane. Isn’t it time we outlawed them for good?

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11 Comments
Es Mia
July 06, 2010 at 10:12 am

Have you ever seen a child who lost his eyesight due to a bottle rocket? Or a bad burn due to carelessness with fireworks? Let's not forget the idiots (many who have been drinking) who set off fireworks near dry grass during a drought -- I nearly had my house burned down one Fourth of July. Fireworks should not be a do-it-yourself activity, period. Outlaw them!