Ringing in the new year with a bang

Fireworks are fun to watch, but can be dangerous to handle.

For people looking to bring in the new year with a bang, fireworks are often the first choice.

At this time of year, you don’t have to search hard to find dazzling pyrotechnics – from mini pop-up shops on the corners of busy main roads to container stores and even a warehouse dedicated to selling the sparkling illuminations, fireworks are in plentiful supply.

The ease of access and relative personal freedom to enjoy the use of fireworks when and where one feels, has made them a mainstay in Cayman’s celebrations. However, the Cayman Islands Fire Service is reminding the public to take care when using fireworks.

Fire Service officials say young children should never be allowed to handle fireworks, and older children should be closely supervised when using them. Do not use fireworks while drunk or impaired, and never light them indoors. Fire official also warn against holding lighted fireworks in your hands, and never point or throw fireworks at another person.

The Fire Service’s call for caution comes on the heels of three separate Christmas Eve bush fires that are thought to have been sparked by fireworks. The most severe of the three fires, which was captured on video and released over social media, showed the blaze fiercely burning as it consumed a hedge near a house and rose high enough to scorch powerlines.

The Fire Service says to reduce the chances of causing damage or an accident, users should discharge fireworks at least 200 feet away from structures, people, houses and flammable materials. People are also reminded to use protective eyewear and to keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of a fire.
Apart from the safety tip, there are also regulations that dictate how, when and where fireworks can and should be used.

Anyone who intends to use fireworks within three nautical miles of the Owen Roberts International Airport, or along the paths of arriving and departing planes, are required by law to coordinate with the Cayman Islands Civil Aviation Authority, so as to prevent potential threats to aircraft in the area.

Cayman Islands Penal Code (2019 Revision) also outlaws the endangering the safety of passengers and people on the streets. A person who is convicted of causing “danger or annoyance of any passenger or inhabitant in any street”, could be fined up to $2,000.

The Towns and Communities Law (1995 Revision), which also guides how fireworks are to be used, states that no one should set fire to any firework in any public place, except in accordance with the terms of a permit issued by the chief fire officer. Anyone who violates this law could be fined a maximum of $1,000 or imprisoned for six months.

Pet safety
While fireworks are beautiful and breathtaking, they can be a terrifying experience for animals. Vets at Island Veterinary Service say there are some easy ways to keep your pets safe and calm when fireworks are going off in the neighbourhood.

Avoid leaving pets outside. If possible, find a safe room or space with no windows that can be closed off. This space will reduce the noise from the loud explosions. Increase the volume on TVs, radios, or noisemakers to help drown out the sounds of the fireworks.

Stay close to your pet. The noise could cause them to become spooked and run away.
Purchase anxiety medication. Doses can range from one day to a week or even longer, depending on your animal’s needs.

Celebrating with the environment in mind
Sky lanterns are becoming increasingly popular in Cayman and around the world. However, Plastic Free Cayman says people should rethink using the sky lanterns.

“Remember what goes up must come down,” the group said in a social media post, “Balloon … and sky lantern litter can be eaten by marine life, entangle turtles or sea birds, and may result in death by choking, starvation or strangulation.”

Avoid shooting rockets out over the sea when possible. The debris from the used rockets ends up in the water and could be consumed by marine life.

Clean up after you have finished; douse the used fireworks in water, then dispose of them properly.

Less is more; it’s unclear how much greenhouse gases are emitted on a global scale each year by New Year’s Eve fireworks displays. The UK government reports that 0.029 tons of nitrogen dioxide is emitted by the official New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Quick safety tips

  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks.
  • Older children should use them only under close adult supervision.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.
  • Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands.=
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Discharge fireworks at least 200 feet away from structures, people, houses or flammable material.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Only light one device at a time, and maintain a safe distance after lighting.
  • Never ignite devices in a container.
  • Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks.
  • Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for an hour before discarding.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire.

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