Fireworks Safety: 9 Tips From Your Apopka ER Medical Director

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On the Fourth of July, you and your neighbors in Apopka might head outside to fire up the grill, cool off in the pool and have a delicious potluck picnic. And what better way to end a long, relaxing day in the sun than lighting up the Florida night sky with red, white and blue fireworks?

But with those spectacular displays come some real dangers. It’s extremely important to have a safety plan with fireworks of all sizes, as an unexpected injury could mean a visit to the AdventHealth Apopka emergency department.

Our team members, including emergency department Medical Director Miles Bennett, DO, FACEP, enjoy brilliant fireworks displays as much as you do. But they also want to be sure you understand what’s at stake so you can celebrate safely this Fourth of July.

As the holiday approaches and you plan your celebration, prepare with these tips from Dr. Bennett, who encourages you to have fun with loved ones, safely.

Your Apopka ER Doctors Miss Holiday Fun, Too, and Want You to Be Safe

The recent pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, and this year’s Fourth of July celebration may feel different, just like Easter did. Your Apopka ER medical team has served our community throughout the pandemic, and each team member knows the frustration and loneliness of keeping a safe distance from family and friends.

“It’s been hard not being able to visit friends or have social gatherings on holidays or weekends or birthdays,” Dr. Bennett says, as his safety precautions don’t end with the workday. “I’ve had to be extra careful at home. I have a daughter with significant health problems, so in public, we always carry hand sanitizer and keep our distance.”

“I miss the human interaction that makes us closer to one another,” he says, recognizing that it’s difficult to stay apart from your loved ones in an effort to stay safe from COVID-19. If you and your loved ones plan to get together for July Fourth, it’s important to keep a safe distance apart while you enjoy at-home fireworks.

Take It From an ER Director: Fireworks Injuries Can Be Life-Threatening

While fireworks are a mainstay of Independence Day celebrations, they’re also a leading cause of emergency room visits around this time of year at the AdventHealth Apopka emergency department. 

“It’s unfortunate, but we do see patients come in with fireworks-related injuries,” Dr. Bennett says. “These injuries are usually burns on the hands, fingers, head, face, legs and eyes. Some are mild, like a mishap with a sparkler, while others can be life-threatening.”

And there’s one key point Dr. Bennett wants you to remember about all fireworks-related ER visits: “These injuries are preventable,” he emphasizes. “Take safety steps before, during and after your fireworks show to avoid anyone getting hurt needlessly.”

Most importantly, Dr. Bennett says, you should have a plan for what to do if something goes wrong. “We’ll be here for you if you need immediate care, but nothing beats injury prevention,” he says. “My team at the Apopka ED can treat fireworks-related injuries quickly and efficiently, but it’s important to actively prevent injuries by being smart with your fireworks.”

Play It Safe in Apopka: 9 Doctor-Approved Tips for Fireworks Safety

The best way to avoid any chance of injury from fireworks is to not handle them yourself.

However, this year, many fireworks displays put on by the city or other professional organizations in your neighborhood may be canceled for everyone’s safety from COVID-19.

If you plan to set off your own fireworks at home, Dr. Bennett suggests following these important safety tips to avoid injuries.

1. Only Buy Legal Fireworks

There’s a reason many fireworks are illegal for personal use in Apopka (and nationwide): They’re simply too dangerous. “If it looks too risky, it probably is, and it’s not worth risking anyone’s safety for the sake of putting on a good show,” Dr. Bennett says. You can and should leave the extravagance to the professionals, like those who put on the City of Apopka fireworks show.

Heed all labels and warnings carefully, he says, for your safety and that of your loved ones. “You can’t miss the warning labels on fireworks packaging,” he says, “and if you’re in doubt, just don’t buy them. It’s not worth putting your family at risk.”

2. Choose an Open Spot

Never light fireworks indoors or near a house or car, and be mindful of your neighbors, too. Find a flat, concrete surface away from dry grass, leaves or other flammable items, Dr. Bennett advises. 

3. Watch Children Closely

“Children are naturally curious, sometimes especially so with dangerous things like fireworks,” Dr. Bennett says. “As a parent, helping them understand the dangers of fireworks can go a long way to keep them safe.”

Help demystify fireworks by explaining how they work and how they could potentially hurt someone. Review safety rules beforehand to be sure they know to stay far away from all fireworks, even after they’ve gone off. And of course, keep a close watch on your kids during the fireworks display.

4. Consider Alternatives for Kids

Part of fireworks safety means having alternatives on hand for little hands to play with. Consider swapping out flaming-hot sparklers with glow sticks for young children. “Sparklers are one of the leading causes of injuries to children during many Fourth of July festivities,” Dr. Bennett says, “so it’s worthwhile to find something safer for them that’s just as entertaining.”

5. Dress Appropriately

While picking out your most patriotic outfit, be sure to factor in flammability if you’ll be setting off fireworks. To avoid the chance of your clothing catching a spark, wear fitted, non-flammable clothing. Loose or flowing garments can be a formula for disaster. “Cotton fabrics can ignite easily and burn rapidly, for example,” Dr. Bennett says, “while polyester and nylon are less flammable.”

6. Follow the Directions on the Box

Fireworks manufacturers are required to follow stringent guidelines for labeling their products. Read the instructions on each box carefully, and light them one at a time. “While it seems like common sense to read the instructions before lighting fireworks,” Dr. Bennett says, “I think some of the injuries we see on July Fourth could be prevented if people had followed the directions closer.”

7. Have a Bucket of Water  on Hand

Just as important as fireworks and lighters are fire extinguishers and containers of water. Having a bucket of water handy allows you to douse fireworks quickly and dispose of them properly. 

8. Keep Your Distance

Stand several feet away once your fireworks are lit and resist the urge to check on anything that doesn’t ignite right away. “This is the most common way people get head and face injuries from fireworks,” Dr. Bennett says. Be sure to aim the fireworks away from your audience and any homes or cars nearby in your Apopka neighborhood. 

9. Plan for Safety and to Get ER Care for Burns

Have a fire extinguisher and first aid kit on hand and ready for use. Hopefully, you won’t have to use either, but it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected.

“For a small cut or scrape, a first aid kit may suffice,” Dr. Bennett says, “but with fireworks, burns are a more common injury and may need medical attention immediately. In that case, don’t hesitate to call 911. Our team can address burns from fireworks while keeping you protected in the Apopka emergency department.”

What Safety Looks Like in the Apopka ER, Right Now

We know the recent pandemic may have heightened your fears about going to the ER, but we don’t want you to have to guess what it’s like here, or delay care out of fear.

Your Apopka emergency department takes enhanced safety steps for your protection every day, so you can feel confident getting ER care at a moment’s notice. To ease your mind, we encourage you to read what to expect at the AdventHealth Apopka emergency department right now, as told by Dr. Bennett, who answers your questions about personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 cases in our ED and more.

“I feel safer at work than I do at the grocery store,” he says, “and I trust my own family members to our ED. AdventHealth has gone the extra mile to ensure the safety of our team members and our guests.”

How We’re Protecting People Every Day

Each day at the AdventHealth Apopka emergency department, extraordinary precautions have become our new normal for your protection. These steps include:

  • Screening staff and patients at every facility: Everyone has their temperature checked, is asked screening questions and is given a mask when they visit our facility

  • Caring for COVID-19 patients in an entirely separate area: You won’t be sitting next to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms in the waiting room, for example, and COVID-19 patients are cared for in a separate wing of our building

  • Enforcing social distancing in waiting areas: We haven’t had any issues with crowding, and you’ll notice chair covers and floor markers for where to sit and stand a safe distance apart from others, along with clear protective shields at the reception desk

  • Continuously supplying team members with fresh PPE: Because we prepared for a more intense surge period of the virus, we have sufficient supplies of PPE, like masks and gloves, and our team members receive fresh equipment each day, as many times per day as necessary

  • Cleaning and disinfecting all areas continuously: We clean and sanitize waiting areas, exam rooms and all high-touch surfaces around the clock

These and other protective measures have become a part of our daily life at the emergency department because taking care of you is our priority. “Your family can expect to receive safe, compassionate and competent care from our providers and nurses, and a hospital system that loves and cares about you,” Dr. Bennett says.

Make Sure Your Celebration Goes Off With a Bang

When you follow these safety steps, you and your family can enjoy fireworks safely, on the Fourth of July and well beyond. Have a plan for safety before, during and after you light your fireworks, and be sure everyone knows what to do for injuries, too.

Our emergency doctors are here to provide immediate care for injuries of all kinds, including from fireworks, and protect you from COVID-19, too. If someone is injured during an at-home fireworks display, call 911 immediately. Follow the operator’s instructions for treating the injury until you’re able to get ER care at AdventHealth Apopka (or your nearest ER) where your loved one can get the immediate attention they need. 

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