Though I consider myself patriotic, I'm not a big fan of celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks. Why? It's simple really: I just don't find the damage they do -- 9,600 injuries, 17,800 reported fires and who knows how many close calls and nonreported trauma to adults, children and pets in 2011 alone -- to be worth a few cheap thrills.
That said, I'm reconciled to the fact that each July 4, most of us will be subjected to what some regard as a thrilling personal celebration of patriotic fervor.
We like that boom boom pow
Just four states (Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York) have banned fireworks outright and another four (Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Vermont) have limited them to sparklers and novelties, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Though numerous cities and counties have followed suit, enforcement remains spotty while public enthusiasm for the annual spectacle continues to flourish. U.S. Census figures show that we manufacture $232 million in fireworks each year and import an additional $190 million in flying, exploding, searing fun. So clearly, we're going to have fireworks on the Fourth of July, like it or not, legal or not.
Safety first on the Fourth
How can you keep this patriotic tradition from escalating into a home insurance claim or a visit to the ER? Before you light a fuse, keep in mind these safety tips from the Ohio Insurance Institute:
- Buy fireworks from reliable vendors. Never experiment and make your own.
- Use fireworks outdoors only, and always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket).
- Light only one firework at a time.
- Wear eye protection.
- Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
- Never throw or point fireworks at others.
- Never re-light a "dud" firework. Instead, wait 15 to 20 minutes, then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Never give fireworks to small children.
- Always supervise children when using any type of fireworks.
- Don't underestimate the danger of "safe" novelties. Three sparklers burning together generate the heat of a blowtorch (2,000 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Dispose of fireworks properly: Soak them in water, then place in a trash can.
If you attend a public fireworks display, leave your pets at home, stay well clear of the firing site, never touch any unexploded firework projectile, and resist the urge to bring your own. Personal fireworks can become dangerous in a large crowd.
Have a fun and safe Independence Day celebration out there!
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus
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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.