Secrets to Success

Fireworks Safety

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Secrets to Success

Fireworks Safety

Ed Patton Jr. '71 offers tips to enjoy fireworks safely.

Summer 2022 | Maura Roan McKeegan

In This Article

Ed Patton Jr. ’71 always loved watching fireworks, but he never dreamed he’d be shooting them professionally one day. Then his son started working as a pyrotechnician, and Ed started helping him. Soon, he was taking training courses himself. Before long, Ed was setting up fireworks shows for the Phillies, the Eagles, and New Year’s Eve on the Delaware River.

If he’s learned one thing from handling fireworks the width of watermelons, it’s that safety is paramount.

These days, more people than ever are putting on their own fireworks displays. While Ed “100 percent supports” people wanting to have fun, he also wants to help make sure no one gets hurt. Tens of thousands of fireworks-related injuries and fires happen each year. If you’re planning to set off fireworks, here is Ed’s advice for making sure the night ends well for everyone.


1. Figure out your safety perimeter.

What goes up must come down. When people shoot fireworks in the middle of the street, the wind can carry embers three blocks away. A live firework could land in someone’s yard. In summer, bushes and trees are often dry and will go up in flames with a few stray embers. Look for an open field that is completely free of obstructions. Figure out the perimeter of your debris field before you even buy fireworks, and then buy them according to the space you have. If you have any doubts at all about clearance, don’t shoot.


2. Have safety equipment ready.

Expect the unexpected. Have a big fire extinguisher available—not a small kitchen one but a heavy-duty one. And have a first-aid kit, too.


3. Keep your distance.

For ground fireworks, stand back a minimum of 35-50 feet. For aerial fireworks, stand back at least 150 feet. Never put your head over a tube that has a firework in it. Hands, eyes, and faces get burnt every year when peo- ple stand too close. Protect yourself with distance.


4. Be especially careful with children.

Keep children far away from live fire- works. Also, use caution with sparklers; many small children get injured from them. They are best for children 10 and over.


5. Put pets inside.

Animals are very sensitive to noise. Put them in the house, with white noise from a TV or other source.


6. No alcohol.

Alcohol and fireworks are a very dangerous combination. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair judgment. If you are shooting fireworks, don’t drink.


7. Be considerate of your neighbors.

Choose your time wisely (hint: not 1:00 a.m.) Tell your neighbors what you’re planning, and be aware of their needs: Do they have children who sleep lightly? Do they need to get up early for work? Think about how the noise will affect them, and be courteous. Also, clean up after yourself. Make sure your neighbor’s car isn’t covered with burnt papers. That’s part of the job. With caution and respect, everyone will have more fun.


Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of “Saved by the Lamb: Moses and Jesus” and other Catholic children’s books.

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