A figure stands on the National Mall in Washington DC, casually dressed in a long-sleeved red t-shirt, carefully balancing a firework on its head. The fuse burns down. There’s a boom of sparks and smoke, and suddenly both firework and head are gone.
Welcome to the annual fireworks safety demonstration of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, a government agency known for their delightfully weird social media presence. Here, styrofoam mannequins and ripe watermelons are sacrificed by the federal government, in a ritual which begs its citizens; ‘Please, please, don’t do that with the firework. That thing, the one you want to do? Don’t.’
This year, the agency’s press conference took place on June 26, and featured timeless advice, including; don’t launch a firework off your body, don’t try to make fireworks at home, don’t look down the tube of a lit firework, and don’t point fireworks at other people.
Tweets from the agency show the brutal aftermath of the morning’s destruction:
Their tips might seem stunningly obvious, but even though the CPSC has been doing this for decades, people keep ignoring their advice. The agency reports that at least five people died in 2018 from fireworks-related injuries, and around 9,100 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries in emergency rooms. Most of these injuries happen in the days and weeks around the Fourth of July, as people start putting on their best pyrotechnic displays.
In addition to giving people safety tips about fireworks, the agency also tests thousands of fireworks every year, making sure that they have fuses that burn for just the right amount of time, and that they won’t inadvertently tip over, causing a grass fire.
Despite the best efforts of the CPSC and other public health groups, it’s a guarantee that we’ll see fireworks related mishaps this year on the Fourth. Early this morning, a storage unit packed with fireworks exploded in Fort Mill South Carolina, and this evening will certainly see palm trees burning in California.
But people can reduce the number of fires and injuries raging from sea to shining sea. Don’t light fireworks in dry areas, and if you see your neighbor Bob attempting to use his head as a staging area, tell him to please, listen to the fireworks safety narwhal, and cut it out.