New Year’s Eve is coming, and throughout Central Texas, the sound of fireworks already is part of our nightly cadence.
Before you light that sparkler, read the tips for using fireworks safely that we got from Kristen Hullum, trauma injury prevention coordinator at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center.
Know what’s legal for fireworks in Austin
Check with your city and county. In Austin, it’s illegal to use fireworks without a permit to do a professional display. You can call 311 if you suspect someone is using fireworks illegally.
Some things are allowed in Austin without a permit, such as glow worms, trick noisemakers, sparklers and smoke devices.
Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander, Pflugerville, Georgetown, Buda, Lakeway and Kyle have similar fireworks ordinances.
Make sure your county is not under a burn ban. Travis, Williamson, Hays and Bastrop do not have burn bans right now.
Safety for the holidays: Follow these tips to avoid holiday injuries, trips to the emergency room
Take safety precautions when lighting fireworks
Fireworks are unpredictable and sometimes go sideways instead of up. Keep everyone — children, pets, other adults — at least 15 feet away from where they are being lighted.
Have a bucket of water or a garden hose attached to a faucet handy in case something goes astray.
Light fireworks on concrete or asphalt and away from homes, cars and buildings.
Do not aim fireworks at anyone, pets included. People think it’s funny, but it can cause an extreme injury, Hullum said. It’s also recommended to keep pets secured indoors during fireworks. They can get scared enough by the noise to run away.
Keep fireworks away from your face and body. Every year there is a lethal injury because people thought it would be funny to shoot fireworks off their head or chest, she said.
Have a charged cellphone handy at all times.
Supervise children when using fireworks
If you want to use sparklers or noise poppers with children, consider their age. Can they follow directions?
Go over ground rules such as holding a sparkler away from your body and giving yourself a circle of space at least an arm’s length around you before you light the sparkler.
Remind kids they are not to aim that sparkler or noise popper at anyone, not even their pesky little brother.
Consider holding onto the sparkler with them if they are very little.
If you’re going to let them hold the sparkler on their own, keep your eyes on them at all times.
Avoid using alcohol around fireworks
The American College of Surgeons’ Committee on Trauma reports that about half of all trauma-related injuries involve the use of alcohol. Fireworks injuries are no different.
Designate a sober person to be in charge of any fireworks. When it comes to fireworks injuries, “it’s lots of adults making less than wise decisions about the use of fireworks,” Hullum said. “Frequently alcohol is involved. … It inhibits our abilities to make good judgments.”
How to treat a burn from fireworks
The most common firework injury is a burn. If the layers of skin are broken, put a clean, wet dressing on it and head to the emergency room for proper treatment. Austin has a burn unit for really bad injuries at Dell Seton Medical Center.
If the top layer of skin is intact but red, drop the area into a bucket of cold water with ice cubes in it to stop the burning. Keep the area in the bucket until you can no longer feel the burn.
More serious injuries involve a firework exploding into a person or the loss of fingers and hands.
The most dangerous fireworks are the ones that launch and travel far because those can cause a penetrating injury that could end in death, Hullum said.
Watch fireworks at home
Skip the lighting of fireworks and just enjoy watching them.
Austin’s New Year’s Eve celebration is being called Austin’s New Year: Fireworks from Afar. Our COVID-19 omicron surge makes it advisable to avoid large crowds. The city is encouraging people to watch from a safe distance when the fireworks go off at 10 p.m. on Vic Mathias Shores. The fireworks will be broadcast at atxn.tv online, on Spectrum and Grande Communications cable channel 6, and on AT&T U-Verse channel 99.