Fourth of July Safety: Even legal fireworks (including sparklers) can be dangerous

July 1, 2019 | 4:36 pm


As the sun starts to set on Fourth of July, Kern County streets start to shine bright with multi-colored fountains of light and flashes. But a celebration of our nation’s independence can turn tragic quickly without proper fireworks safety measures.

In fact, did you know about 11,000 people are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries each year. And in the month surrounding July 4, our nation sees about 200 fireworks injuries per day, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks: serious burns, eye injuries, structure fires, and even death.

In 2017, for example, eight people died in our country and over 12,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents. Of those, 50% of the injuries were to children and young adults under the age of 20. While the majority of these incidents were due to amateurs attempting to use professional-grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, an estimated 1,200 injuries were from less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Injuries to people aside, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires and 300 vehicle fires.

Even sparklers, popular among young children, can be dangerous — much more than most people think. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals, and can quickly ignite clothing. Many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. In fact, sparklers account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries, and nearly half of injuries for children under 5 years old, according to the National Safety Council. Alternatives include glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals. They may be legal in Kern County, but they are not necessarily safe.

But if you do take part and celebrate the Fourth of July with legal fireworks, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, and away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Never use illegal fireworks. Plus, fire departments in both Bakersfield and Kern County hand out fines of $1,500 and up for illegal firework activity.

If someone is injured by fireworks, here’s what you can do:

  • If an eye injury happens, don’t let the injured person touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage. Don’t flush the eye out with water or try to put any ointment on it. Cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and get medical care right away — eyesight may depend on it.
  • If someone suffers a burn, remove clothing from the burned area, and call your doctor immediately.
  • If someone is injured due to the negligence of someone else, please contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately to receive legal assistance, be compensated for injuries suffered, and continue to get medical care in the future.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles in recent years has represented victims of fireworks accidents and other burn injury cases. In 2014 attorney David Cohn represented two men who suffered from severe injuries caused in a fireworks accident while attending a party on Fourth of July in west Bakersfield. The two men arrived at the party where party-goers were allegedly setting off illegal fireworks and explosives. A blast injured two clients, and the case settled in 2018 for $2.3 million.

— Alexa Esparza contributed to this report.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a fireworks accident due to the negligence of another, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Tips: Safety with fireworks, sober driving for that perfect Fourth of July

June 30, 2017 | 10:07 am


Each year, the Fourth of July holiday in Kern County brings with it swimming, barbecuing and celebration with fireworks.

Independence Day bears not only fun and excitement, but unfortunately, it also can bring chaos and injury. While enjoying the holiday, individuals must remain aware of possible dangers, and helpful tips, to prevent fireworks-related injury. It’s the reason that National Fireworks Safety Month, observed each July, reminds individuals to remain safe throughout the year when handling various forms of fireworks.

Kern County’s annual Fourth of July celebration is not only full of fireworks-related injuries, but is met with many tragic motor vehicle crashes as well, due to those who make the wrong decision to drive under the influence.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles advises Kern County community members to to read various safety tips below related to fireworks and safe driving.

 

Fireworks Safety 

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were the cause of an estimated 11,900 injuries in 2015, and of those, an estimated 8,000 fireworks-related injuries (or 67 percent) were during the one-month period between, from June 19 and July 19. To prevent further injuries, the National Council on Fireworks Safety offers some helpful tips:

  • Consumers should purchase fireworks from a reputable company or fireworks stand, check local and state laws for fireworks use in your city, and check all instructions on fireworks packaging before use.
  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never re-light a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water before you discard it.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down, and place them in a metal trashcan away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • Ensure all pets and animals are away from fireworks noise.
  • With the rise in stress-related disorders affecting American servicemen and women, pay special consideration to individuals who may be sensitive to loud noises in proximity to your fireworks show.
  • Report illegal explosives.

The personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles remain proponents of fireworks safety, and in recent years past have represented victims of fireworks accidents and other burn injury cases. In 2014, attorney David Cohn represented two men who suffered from severe injuries caused in a fireworks accident.

Remain aware of local codes and ordinances in Kern County and assist others in the safety of handling fireworks to make the community a safer place, not only throughout National Fireworks Safety Month, but as a permanent preventative measure throughout the year.

For more information and tips on fireworks safety, click here, and for more information regarding illegal fireworks, click here.

The Bakersfield Californian, too, has a handy guide related to fireworks safety specific to Bakersfield and Kern County, called “Fireworks 411.”

 

Drinking and Driving

Not only should those in the community be aware of precautions when handling fireworks, all of Kern County can help make Fourth of July a safer celebration for all by planning ahead. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County urges the community to remain aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, and continuously support the goal to end driving under the influence.

To help prepare for the holiday celebration, MADD has provided various helpful tips:

  • If your plans include alcohol, whether on land or on water, designate a non-drinking driver to make sure celebrations don’t end in tragedy. Call an Uber, take a taxi or public transportation.
  • As a parent, talk to your teens about the dangers of alcohol. Set a firm house rule that there is no drinking under 21 — and that goes for their friends as well.
  • General car safety should be part of the plan: wear your seat belt, don’t speed, and for young drivers, don’t drive with too many passengers. Distractions are dangerous, too.
  • For boating, many road rules apply. The most important one concerns alcohol. If you’re going to operate a boat, don’t drink. It’s illegal; but more importantly, it’s deadly and dangerous.
  • In 2015, 146 were killed in drunk driving crashes over the Fourth of July holiday, representing 36 percent of all traffic fatalities during that period.
  • Drunk driving kills more than 10,000 people and injures 290,000 others each year in the United States, and every single crash is preventable.
  • Law enforcement will be on patrol throughout the Kern County during this holiday weekend, so make sure you, your family and friends don’t drink and drive.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles continues to support MADD Kern County in the ongoing fight against drinking and driving in our community.

 

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or at the website chainlaw.com.

Law enforcement, local groups in full force this Fourth of July to prevent drunk driving

July 2, 2014 | 9:54 am


UPDATE: CCS Marketing Director and MADD Kern County board member Jorge Barrientos spoke with KERO-23 (ABC) News about driving sober and safe on the Fourth of July weekend. Watch the segment here.

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Fireworks, friends, flag-waving, food and family — those are usually the ingredients for a successful Fourth of July.

Many times, Independence Day festivities also include alcohol. The Bakersfield Police Department, MADD Kern County, and the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles are reminding Kern County residents to celebrate safely this year and always.

As Bakersfield Police states, the holidays can quickly turn from festive to fatal when people choose to drink and drive. In fact, during the Fourth of July holiday period in 2012, 78 people in the United States were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

To crack down on drunk driving locally, Bakersfield law enforcement will be having its Avoid the 18 DUI Task Force in full force. MADD Kern County, too, is sharing some tips and statistics to celebrate the Fourth safely. And the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also share some safety tips.

AVOID the 18

The Avoid the 18 DUI Task Force aggressively targets those who put lives in danger. That means every Kern County law enforcement agency is ramping enforcement this Fourth of July, according to Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson.

In short, those who drink and drive will be targeted for arrest in the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which means zero tolerance for drunk driving.

The Task Force will also be deploying officers to DUI saturation patrols. The California Highway Patrol, for example, will be deploying all available officers onto freeways and county roads for its “Maximum Enforcement Period.”

The reason is because more than 10,000 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the United States in 2012, representing a third of all crash fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Fourth of July holiday period is especially deadly — there were 179 people killed in crashes in 2012, and 44 percent of those crashes were alcohol-related.

In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. According to FBI statistics, more than 1.28 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2012. Data also shows that 46 percent of young drivers, ages 18 to 34, were drunk while driving in fatal crashes over the July 4th period in 2012.

Motorcycle drivers represented the highest percentage of alcohol impaired drivers in fatal crashes. In 2012, 27 percent of the motorcycle operators in fatal crashes had a BAC of .08 or higher.

Aside from putting your life and the lives of others at risk by drinking and driving, Kern County police remind, driving impaired can also lead to other serious consequences. A DUI arrest can mean time in jail, loss of your license, and steep financial expenses — the average DUI costs about $10,000.

Local law enforcement recommends these simple tips to prevent drunk driving:

  • Plan a safe way home before the fun begins.
  • Before drinking, designate a sober driver.
  • If you‘re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • Use Designated Driver of Bakersfield as a sober ride program.
  • If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don‘t hesitate to Call 9-1-1.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

MADD on Fourth of July

In anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday weekend — one of the deadliest holidays for drunk driving crashes — Uber Technologies and Mothers Against Drunk Driving launched #UberMADD, a national partnership designed to prevent drunk driving.

Uber, which connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services, recently launched in Bakersfield, and so has its competitor Lyft. To kick off the #UberMADD campaign, Uber will donate $1 to MADD for every ride taken and $10 for every new rider in the United States between 6 a.m. on July 4 and 6 a.m. on July 5, when riders use the promotion code “UberMADD.”

MADD also urges adults to plan ahead for a non-drinking designated driver if Fourth of July plans include alcohol.

In addition to the dangers posed by drunk driving on roadways, the U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol was the leading factor in boating fatalities last year, contributing to 16 percent of boating deaths. Whether you’re in a car or on a boat, the dangers of drinking and driving are the same, MADD shared.

“Have a plan, designate a driver and pay attention out there,” said Carla Pearson, program coordinator and victim advocate for MADD Kern County. “It’s also important for sober drivers to pay attention to their surroundings, too. Look out for each other. We don’t need any more lives lost.”

As a reminder, MADD Kern County and Chain | Cohn | Stiles are partnering with local law enforcement and other groups in the first-ever “Walk-Run Like MADD” 5K walk and competitive run. It’s aimed to raise awareness in our own community, raise funds to stop drunken driving and underage drinking locally, and provide support to victims and survivors of drunk driving crashes.

For more information on the event, which will be held Sept. 20, read a previous blog post here, or visit the main event webpage here.

Fireworks Safety

Like driving, alcohol and fireworks also do not go together. Bakersfield safety officials here warn that if fireworks are not set off properly, the results could be devastating.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of Bakersfield Fire Department and Kern County Fire Department, has compiled several safety tips and advice for you and your pets this Independence Day.

Read them here.

And for media coverage regarding fireworks safety, read this article in The Bakersfield Californian.