About Medicine: Being Safe Around Fireworks

Sheryl Schumacher
Ravalli County Public Health
205 Bedford Suite L
Hamilton, Montana

Independence Day, Fireworks and Safety
Fireworks are the most iconic and festive way to celebrate our country's independence. The thrill of fireworks can also bring pain, and even death if used improperly. Purchase fireworks from a reputable company or fireworks stand, check local and state laws for fireworks use in your city or county, and check all instructions on fireworks packaging before use. What are Fireworks? "Devices containing gunpowder and other combustible chemicals that cause spectacular explosions when ignited."

With the rise in stress-related disorders (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD) affecting American service men and women, give special consideration to individuals who may be sensitive to loud noises in proximity to your fireworks show. What is PTSD? "Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered mby a terrifying event - either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event".

Celebrating Independence Day Awesome for Humans, Terrifying for Pets
Keep your pets safely away from fireworks.
  • Our pets are extra sensitive to loud noises, flashing lights and strong smells. It is best to leave your pets safely indoors or keep them in a garage, shed or barn; familiar surroundings.
  • Turning your pet's enclosure (aviaries, hutches and cages) so it's not facing an open area and covering with blankets will help in lessening the sights and sounds of the fireworks.
  • Closing windows, doors (doggie doors and cat flaps) will prevent pets from escaping. Prepare a safe place for your pet - perhaps under a bed. Allow your pet to pace around, whine, meow and hide if they want to - safety is what they seek.
  • Never take your dog to a fireworks display or tie them up while fireworks are being let off.
  • Avoid setting off fireworks near your horse's field or stable. Keeping your horse in a familiar environment with companions will help them feel secure.
  • Do not try to force your pet to experience or be close to the sound that frightens them.
  • Do not punish your pet for being afraid.
If your pet is scared by fireworks, ask a veterinarian for help.
There are medications and techniques that might help alleviate your pet's fear and anxiety.

Safeguard your pet with a collar and I.D. tag
All pets, even those kept indoors full-time, should always wear collars with ID tags. Indoor-only pets can become so frightened during celebrations with fireworks that they may take desperate measures to escape the noise, including breaking through window or door screens.

If you find a lost pet, either take them to the address on their tag or bring them to the local animal shelter so they can be reunited with their family. If your pet becomes lost contact your local veterinary office or the Bitterroot Humane Society, 262 Fairgrounds Rd, Hamilton, MT 59840 - (406) 363-5311.

Recommended Safety Tips
  • Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never give fireworks to children. A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities.
  • With the rise in stress-related disorders affecting American service men and women, give consideration to individuals who may be sensitive to loud noises in proximity to your fireworks show.
  • Ensure all pets and animals are away from fireworks noise.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
  • Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  • Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  • Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s, Silver Salutes, Roman Candles, Bottle Rockets and Quarter Sticks, to the fire or police department.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
Fireworks cause thousands of injuries each year. Sparklers are responsible for more than one-quarter of emergency room fireworks injuries.

Parents, encourage safety by explaining that the improper use of fireworks can result in serious injuries or even death. If you see something that is unsafe, say something or report it to your local fire or police department.

This week's community health column is brought to you by Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital and Ravalli County Public Health. For questions and or comments, please contact Sheryl Schumacher, Ravalli County Public Health at 406-375-6675. Working together to build a healthier community!


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