Practice firework safety this season

Neighbourhood Police Officer PC Rob Stewart has joined forces with the fire department and the emergency medical service to raise public awareness about the dangers of fireworks use and abuse this Christmas season.

‘Each year emergency services around the world respond to a number of calls relating to fireworks and the Cayman Islands are no different,’ said Mr. Stewart. ‘The police are often called to deal with members of the public, of all ages, acting in a dangerous manner with fireworks often during the unsociable hours of the night.

‘In an effort to reduce the likelihood of injury, damage to property and distress to animals this year, I would like to remind the public that fireworks are not toys.

‘They should never be handed out to young children who are then left to play with them unsupervised. A firework is, by definition, an explosive or combustible device which is capable of causing serious, possibly fatal burns.’

Fireworks injuries range in severity from burned fingers and lacerations to serious disability and permanent loss of vision, said EMS Supervisor Ralston Dilbert, who is based at Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac.

‘Most injuries are to the eyes, hands, fingers and face,’ he said. ‘Some experience persistent hearing loss or tingling in the ears because of the sound made by the nearby explosions.

‘Sparklers, considered by many to be safe, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite some clothing. People are often fascinated by the sparkler’s light and do not realise the danger. Fireworks should always be treated with respect and you should not drink alcohol when using them. Responsible people do not run or engage in horseplay while fireworks are being used.’

Contact fire department

Senior Divisional Officer Larry Bryan, based at the Gerrard Smith Airport Fire Station, Cayman Brac, stressed that if you are intending on having a fireworks party or display this Christmas, you must contact the Fire Department beforehand to get official permission from the chief fire officer.

‘This is essential, because it allows the Fire Department to plan ahead and to be aware at all times of where fireworks will be in use, which in turn will allow us to respond that much quicker in the event of a problem,’ he explained.

‘We can also provide help and advice relating to the safe use of fireworks, to allow you to enjoy your display safely. Common problems we have encountered, involve people not taking into account environmental factors such as the wind. For example, a gust of wind can blow a firework off course or tip them over before they have launched, causing a danger to those watching the display as well as to surrounding buildings and foliage.

‘Make sure your fireworks are set up on a flat surface and are operated and supervised by an appropriate adult at all times. Never use fireworks whilst under the influence of alcohol.’

PC Stewart added: ‘My colleagues and I in the Cayman Brac Emergency Services wish everyone in our community a very merry, and above all, safe Christmas holiday. Please help us to keep it a season to remember, for all the right reasons.’

The most effective way to prevent fireworks’ injury is to leave fireworks to the experts. And remember; In the event of an emergency please call 911 for EMS/ambulance, police or fire.

Fireworks safety tips

• Before using any fireworks, you should read all warning instructions and follow them closely.

• Fireworks should only be used outdoors in a clear area away from houses, buildings, cars and flammable materials (gasoline cans, etc.)

• A bucket of water, hose or fire extinguisher should be kept nearby for emergencies and to douse fireworks that do not ignite. Never use fireworks during dry spells when grass can ignite.

• If fireworks malfunction, extinguish them with water immediately and then throw them away. Do not try to re-light them.

• Always place fireworks on solid, level ground and use the long-style matches when lighting them. Everyone should keep his or her head as far from the fuse as possible.

• Never throw firecrackers at a person or animal.

• Do not ignite fireworks in a container, especially one made of glass or metal.

• Finally, after using fireworks, do not keep extras around the house for next year’s celebration.

• Parents, teach your children about the dangers of fireworks and remember to look after your animals too, by ensuring your pets are kept indoors when fireworks are about.

Mr. Stewart is asking for the cooperation of the shops and businesses that sell fireworks to ensure that these items are stored safely on their premises and issuing the following advice:

• Firework displays should be kept off the lower shelves and out of the reach of children.

• Always store fireworks in a safe, fireproof area such as a metal lockbox. If you suspect someone is buying fireworks to use in an irresponsible manner, or that they are going to be supplied to young children, please do not sell to them.

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