When it comes to fireworks and New Year’s celebrations, the State Fire Marshal’s Office wants residents to make good fire safety habits a New Year’s tradition whether at home or out on the town.“No matter how you choose to ring in 2015, be sure to do it safely,” said Gary West, deputy commissioner of the Fire Prevention Division, Department of Commerce and Insurance. “Leave fireworks to the professionals and have emergency escape plans in place for not only your home, but for public venues as well.”
Consumer fireworks are a longstanding custom of New Year’s events. But every year thousands of people – most often children and teens – are seriously injured because of fireworks injuries. A nationwide study this year by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that fireworks resulted in the deaths of eight people and caused injuries to an estimated 11,400 people in 2013 – an increase from the 8,700 people who sustained fireworks-related injuries in 2012.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office strongly advises that people attend organized public fireworks displays where compliance with state-of-the-art fire codes offer a safer way to ring in a new year.
If consumer fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips:
Never allow children to handle or ignite fireworks, including sparklers, which reach temperatures of 1200 degrees.
Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
Wear eye protection.
Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks. Never throw or point fireworks at people or animals.
Only light fireworks outdoors on a smooth, flat surface away from homes, dry leaves and flammable materials.
Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
Keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.
Make sure that your home is equipped with working smoke alarms on every level, including the basement, and that everyone in the home knows the sound the alarm makes and what it signifies. Have a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a designated outside meeting place. Practice the plan with all members of your household both at night and during the day.
Public events are also a big part of New Year’s celebrations. If attending a party at a public venue is part of your New Year’s Eve plans, the State Fire Marshal’s Office urges you to keep the following in mind:
Before you enter
Take a good look. Does the building appear to be in a condition that makes you feel comfortable? Is the main entrance wide and does it open outward to allow easy exit? Is the outside area clear of materials stored against the building or blocking exits?
Have a communication plan. Identify a relative or friend to contact in case of emergency and you are separated from family or friends.
Plan a meeting place. Pick a meeting place outside to meet family or friends with whom you are attending the function. If there is an emergency, be sure to meet them there.
When you enter
Locate exits immediately. When you enter a building you should look for all available exits. Some exits may be in front and some in back of you. Be prepared to use your closest exit. You may not be able to use the main exit.
Check for clear exit paths. Make sure aisles are wide enough and not obstructed by chairs or furniture. Check to make sure your exit door is not blocked or chained. If there are not at least two exits or exit paths are blocked, report the violation to management and leave the building if it is not immediately addressed. Call the local fire marshal to register a complaint.
Do you feel safe? Does the building appear to be overcrowded? Are there fire sources such as candles burning, cigarettes or cigars burning, pyrotechnics, or other heat sources that may make you feel unsafe? Are there safety systems in place such as alternative exits, sprinklers, and smoke alarms? Ask the management for clarification on your concerns. If you do not feel safe in the building, leave immediately.
During an emergency
React immediately. Immediately exit the building in an orderly fashion if an alarm sounds or if you see smoke, fire, or other unusual disturbances.
Get out, stay out! Once you have escaped, stay out. Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. Let trained firefighters conduct rescue operations.