There are apps for everything these days. They help us monitor our vital signs when we work out, quickly calculate the caloric damage in a chocolate éclair before we bite in, remind us to walk the dog or change the sheets, and fill up our leisure time with divertissements from Angry Birds to Spotify.
So where's our app for Fourth of July fireworks? You know, the killer app to take the danger out of a killer holiday tradition? Silicon Valley -- hello?
Last year's holiday toll
Last Fourth of July, fireworks killed eight of us and singed, scarred, blinded, deafened and otherwise maimed 11,400 duing our annual ritualistic reenactment of Francis Scott Key's "rocket's red glare/bombs bursting in air" line from "The Star-Spangled Banner." The number of casualties was up nearly 30 percent from the previous year, which saw "just" 8,700 fireworks-related injuries wind up in emergency rooms across the land, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Division.
Over the years, we've somehow twisted Key's lyrics into an excuse to arm ourselves, including our most vulnerable citizens, with the firepower to literally change lives. According to the CPSC, children under age 5 are at a disproportionate risk of having their holiday ruined by something as seemingly harmless as a sparkler.
"Parents should tell their children not to play with fireworks, and in particular, not to play with sparklers," advises CPSC Chairman Bob Adler. "Sparklers burn at a temperature of 2,000 degrees (F), which is roughly the temperature of a blowtorch."
Illegal fireworks bring added danger
We've also developed a dangerous national obsession with illegal "bootleg" fireworks and commercial-grade explosives, despite their annual impact on our health insurance.
Last year, 23-year-old Taron Pounds of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a third-year college student and lifelong fireworks fan, set off a 4-inch mortar at his cousin's July wedding. The blast blew the skin off the left side of his face. He spent weeks in a coma, followed by months of reconstructive procedures as surgeons removed bone and skin from his legs and chest to rebuild his face.
The Pounds family has sworn off fireworks for good.
"They are a cheap thrill and they are so dangerous," says Taron's mom, Tammy. "And people, you think, oh, it's just a sparkler. Well, it's just a sparkler until it touches you."
Safety first on the Fourth
Follow these CPSC suggestions for an injury-free Fourth:
- Buy legal fireworks.
- Don't let young children handle or light fireworks, including sparklers.
- Always have adult supervision around fireworks.
- Don't buy fireworks packaged in brown paper. They're made for professionals, not consumers.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy.
- Don't try to relight malfunctioning fireworks.
- Douse used fireworks in water before disposing in the trash.
Finally, should a fireworks app one day become available, please don't use it behind the wheel.
Have a safe Fourth of July out there!
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus
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