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Firework safety paramount during July

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- According to the U.S. fire administration, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 7,000 people for fireworks-related injuries during 2008. Of these injuries, 70 percent occurred between June 20 and July 20.

It's easy to conclude that fireworks-related injuries are more likely to occur during the Independence Day time frame.

Fireworks retailers often set up shop near neighborhoods during June, making the devices more readily available to everyone, including children.

Though few items can match the firecracker's ability to place an exclamation point on patriotic revelry, Air Force members and their families should remember that fireworks can cause injuries ranging from minor to serious when not handled safely.

"Our goal is for every member of the Air Force Space Command family to have a mishap-free fourth of July weekend," General Robert C. Kehler, commander AFSPC, said in his July 4 Weekend Wingman Message. "As you celebrate with picnics, barbecues and fireworks remember safety first. Examine your planned activities and take measures to reduce risks."

By following some simple tips issued by the USFA, members and families can mitigate many of the factors that cause typical fireworks injuries:

- Use only professionally manufactured fireworks. Look for the DOT class "C" listing label.

- Minors often experiment or engage in horseplay when not supervised, so it's best to make a rule that children not use fireworks when an adult is not around.

- Don't use fireworks if you have consumed alcohol. Alcohol impairs judgment and coordination. Also, never attempt to use professional-grade fireworks. Mishaps with these types of devices could result in serious injury, including death. Many states require a professional pyrotechnics license when handling these fireworks.

- Spaces where fireworks are used should be hard and flat, and a 50-foot radius of safety is recommended.

- Never set fireworks off during windy conditions.

- If a firework misfires or "duds," back away from the device and wait at least two minutes before approaching it. Do not attempt to relight the device.

- Users should wear safety goggles and long-sleeved shirts. Avoid wearing 100 percent cotton, rayon or nylon, which can ignite and melt to skin.

- Never throw a firework near a person, vehicle or structure.

- sparklers are not harmless, they burn at extremely high temperatures. The U.S. Fire Administration's 2008 research study indicated that sparklers, fountains, roman candles and novelties accounted for 40 percent of fireworks injuries. Keep them away from other people and avoid twirling.

- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, preferably a Class ABC type, and never use fireworks indoors.

- And, of course, always expect the unexpected. Be ready to act.