#3. Never buy from the trunk of someone’s car
According to the CPSC report, the vast majority of 2008 fireworks-related injuries were from legal fireworks, but three of the seven deaths were from illegal, homemade fireworks—which, because they’re unregulated, are particularly risky. “One very dangerous item people perceive as fireworks but isn’t is the cherry bomb or M-80,” says Apel. “These are illegal explosives, not fireworks. There are no standards for these things. You don’t know how the long fuse is going to burn, and quite often they burn very fast—which is how you lose a finger or even a hand.” They’re federally banned, but people end up buying homemade ones from “a friend of a friend.” A word of advice: Don’t.
#4. Maximize your bang, minimize the potential for burns
Nearly two-thirds of all fireworks injuries involve burns, and about half of all fireworks injuries are to hands and fingers. To minimize the chance of burning your hands and fingers and, at the same time, maximize your display, Apel suggests purchasing multishot aerial devices. “You light the fuse once, and you get anywhere from 12 to 15 shots,” he says. Just make sure no part of your body is over the fuse when you light it.
#5. Create a launch platform
In other words, light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface, away from the house and any dried grass or leaves, which may catch on fire. This is especially key for bottle rockets. “You should never hold them in your hands after lighting, because you can get burnt when the engine starts,” says Apel. “Plus, it can move sideways.”
#6. Have a bucket of water handy
To douse any flames, of course, but also in which to discard spent sparklers, so kids and adults don’t step on them and burn their bare feet.
#7. Steer clear of smoke if you have asthma
Very large, citywide fireworks displays can cause spikes in unhealthy levels of air pollution for a few hours after the event. If you have asthma or difficulty breathing, you may want to watch from your window. After closing it.