Breakout the fireworks

  • Published
  • By George Maher
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing weapons safety manager
As the red and white striped circus tents occupy every open space available next to gas stations and convenience stores throughout the Kansas landscape, it's important for McConnell Airmen to remember fireworks safety.

Despite local laws and consumer warnings, it's a thriving seasonal business. Some might say it's an exploding industry. Well it's just that, "dangerously explosive."

Fireworks are inherently dangerous, yet many of us still have to touch that "hot stove" again. As it is with Air Force policy on safety in the work place, it's also sound policy to discuss safety and fireworks at this time of year.

To begin, let's look at some facts and figures gleaned from some of the many consumer safety websites. More than 10,000 people are injured annually by fireworks mishaps; 70 percent of those around the Fourth of July. Of these, roughly 50 percent are under the age of 15.

A significant number of injuries to children are attributed to sparklers. All fireworks generate extreme heat; some reaching temperatures of 1,800 degrees (enough to melt gold). The majority of fireworks will produce an explosion or involve projectiles. Some items, sold under the guise of "fireworks," are actually categorized as "explosives" and are illegal (M80s and M100s).

The fact is, the ingredients in those neat little rockets you bought are meant to explode, and usually violently.

What's the best, and safest, way to enjoy those fireworks?

Let the professionals do the dangerous work. There are several local fireworks display performed by reputable, trained companies. Nothing you can buy at the local "big top" can rival the excitement of seeing the licensed professionals light up their stockpile.

Here are some tips for Airmen who still wish to provide their own explosives. These also apply to you if you're only planning to be a spectator.
  • Know the local laws
  • Know what fireworks are legal to purchase
  • Purchase only from licensed vendors
  • Store in a safe, secure and dry place (Can your teenager get in there?)
  • Consider the environment; are there burn bans in effect
  • Read all directions; know what the firework "effect" is
  • Do not alter fireworks in anyway
  • Do not combine fireworks for effect
  • Light only one firework at a time
  • Never use fireworks indoors
  • Select an open, flat area
  • Keep the spectators at a safe distance with ability to egress
  • Continually check spectators location; children want to be close to the action
  • Wear safety gear (goggles, fire resistant gloves, hearing protection, etc)
  • Keep a hose and bucket of water close by
  • Keep the arsenal at a safe distance (50 feet is good)
  • Use a long-necked punk to light wicks
  • Never re-use fireworks
  • Don't point fireworks at people, buildings or pets (in fact, it is best to keep pets in the house)
  • And finally, don't mix fireworks with alcohol
More information on local fireworks regulations for Andover, Derby and Wichita can be found at the following links as follows:

Fireworks regulations for Andover, Derby and Wichita are as follows:  
  • Fireworks can be purchased and set off July 1 to July 5
  • The available times to set off fireworks are July 2 to 3, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., July 4, 8 a.m. to midnight and July 5, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Bottle rockets, sky rockets and moon rockets are not allowed. Those who are a caught in violation face a $500 fine.
  • To sell or store fireworks, members must receive Sedgwick County approval.
  • McConnell firework regulations are the same as Wichita (As per law enforcement desk at (316) 759-3976)
Here are some statistics for the local community:

In Wichita, Kan., 33 people sought emergency care in 2010. The Wichita Fire Department responded to 16 calls resulting in $103, 000 damages in 2009.

Bottom line--if you're going to perform your own fireworks display, be smart, responsible and use situational awareness. Don't get caught up in the moment and do something you'll regret.

If you choose to entertain your own family and friends, use the tips we've listed and enjoy the holiday but also consider the local events within the community as a much wiser and hassle-free alternative.