The Fourth of July and spectacular fireworks displays go hand-in-hand.
Fireworks are beautiful, but they’re also dangerous and in some cases, illegal.
Longtime Indiana Insurance Commissioner Stephen W. Robertson deems fireworks dangers to be serious enough that he has these cautionary words:
“If someone using fireworks accidentally starts a fire, to their property or that of their neighbors, they may not be able to turn to their insurance company for reimbursement,” Robertson says. “I encourage people to consider the consequences before using fireworks.”
In 2013, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires in the U.S., including 1,400 total structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 outside and other fires, according to the Quincy, Massachusetts-based National Fire Protection Association. These fires resulted in an estimated $21 million in direct property damage.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports around the July 4th holiday, roughly 230 people a day go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries. 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.
Will standard homeowners’ insurance policies 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 an insured shoots off illegal fireworks and sets fire to their house, it may not be covered. Most policies exclude damage resulting from illegal acts.
On the other hand, should fireworks accidentally spark leaves in the gutter, insurance may cover the damage.
What if a fireworks malfunction injures someone? This also could be covered under a homeowners’ insurance section for medical payments to others. Likewise, liability payments could cover fireworks that accidentally damage someone else’s property.
Keeping people, property safe
The following fireworks safety tips to help prevent injuries and protect property from organizations including the American Pyrotechnics Association, National Council on Fireworks Safety, National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Use fireworks outdoors only: All fireworks burn and can quickly start a house or structure fire.
- Point fireworks away from homes and buildings: 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.
- Don’t point fireworks at people: Also, maintain a safe distance when watching fireworks shows.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire: Also, have a first aid kit ready and waiting.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks: Safety glasses will protect your eyes from errant sparks when lighting fireworks and from flying debris if there is a quicker-than-expected explosion.
- Don’t use fireworks while under the influence: Drinking and fireworks do not mix. Save the hard-partying for after the show.
- Don’t ignite fireworks in a container: Also, never shoot fireworks into metal or glass containers. And never carry fireworks in your pocket.
- Never relight a ‘dud’ firework: Wait 20 minutes and then soak any ‘dud’ fireworks in a bucket of water.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t light fireworks in windy conditions: Wind can affect how the sparks fly or may move the charge unexpectedly.
- Obey the law: Don’t use fireworks that are illegal in your city, county or state. In Denver, Colorado, for example, setting off fireworks — of any kind — is illegal, and the same goes for most Colorado Front Range cities.
- Leave fireworks to the professionals: The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by trained professionals.