Happy holiday weekend! The Fourth of July brings family and friends together every summer to enjoy great food and fun festivities. We go out on boats, have barbecues, and watch fireworks shows. Fireworks are beautiful, but they’re also dangerous. Every year, fire departments across the country prepare for their busiest time of year. “We have already increased coverage for the weekend in anticipation of fireworks-related fires and injury,” tells Grand Rapids Firefighter Matthew Gonzalez. “There are too many risks associated with fireworks that all homeowners want to avoid.”
In 2013, in the United States alone, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires, including 1,400 total structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 outside and other fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires resulted in an estimated $21 million in direct property damage. More than one-quarter (28%) of fires started by fireworks in 2009-2013 were reported on Independence Day. Almost half (47%) of the reported fires on the Fourth of July were started by fireworks.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports 230 people on average go the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday. In 2013, there were eight deaths and an estimated 11,400 consumers who sustained injuries related to fireworks. Sixty-five percent, or 7,400, of the injuries in 2013, occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4, 2013, according to CPSC‘s latest data.
“One of the biggest issues, is people setting fireworks off next to a house,” explains Gonzalez. “Many times, they set fire to surrounding trees or overhead hazards like telephone wires.”
Does your home insurance cover fireworks injuries and damage? The answer is complicated, according to Insurance.com. Most home insurance policies provide several different types of protection — each with varying payout limits. Also, there are different types of accidents.
If you’re shooting off illegal fireworks and set fire to your house, you may not be covered. Most policies exclude damage resulting from illegal acts or when you purposely caused injury or damage.
If fireworks set fire to leaves in your gutter, a section of your home insurance policy for fire incidents could cover the damage. Fireworks that malfunction and injure a friend on your property could be covered under a section for medical payments to others. Likewise, liability payments could cover your fireworks accidentally shooting into your neighbor’s house and breaking a window.
But if you get into a bottle-rocket war and injure someone, you may not be covered because the incident was intentional. Always follow Michigan law when using fireworks to better your chances of insurance and avoidance of injury.
With these additional 7 tips you can protect your family and your home from the potential dangers of fireworks.
1. Point fireworks away from people, pets, and homes
Keep fireworks away from brush, leaves and flammable substances. Use launching fireworks in open areas only to ensure they don’t land on top of buildings and houses — especially those with natural (cedar) type shingles. Don’t light fireworks under trees or near vehicles or windows.
2. Store fireworks properly
Storing fireworks can be tricky — if stored improperly, they could lose their charge, weaken, or even prematurely ignite.
- Store fireworks in a cool, dry, dark location.
- Keep stored fireworks away from potential heat sources such as light bulbs, furnaces, engines and other combustible materials.
- Don’t store fireworks in bulk in case they explode before you want them to.
- Store fireworks out of reach of children and pets.
3. Never use homemade fireworks
Buy fireworks only from a licensed store or stand — not from the seller’s home or car. Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
Read all instructions before igniting. Never alter or combine fireworks in any way, including trimming fuses or cutting away protective packaging.
4. Never relight a ‘dud’ firework
Wait 20 minutes and then soak any ‘dud’ fireworks in a bucket of water.
5. Carefully dispose of spent fireworks
Dispose of spent fireworks by soaking them in a bucket of water and placing in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials.
6. Light one firework at a time
Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. After lighting a firework, quickly move away.
Keep spectators a safe distance away from the lighting area — at least 20 feet.
7. Carefully supervise children using sparklers
CPSC data show that sparklers alone accounted for more than one one-quarter (28%) of the emergency room fireworks injuries seen from June 20-July 20, 2014. According to the CPSC, more than one-third (35%) of the people seen in emergency rooms for fireworks injuries from June 20-July 20, 2014 were under 15; nine percent were under five.
While it may be fun to host a firework show in your own backyard, sometimes it’s best to leave it to the professionals. With so many reported injuries and fires, protect your family from risk and avoid home fireworks. “If you don’t know how to safely light fireworks or you’re unsure, just don’t do it,” says Gonzalez. From the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Home Builders Association team, have a fun and safe Fourth of July!