Safety officials demonstrate dangers of fireworks
Sometimes the same parent who would judiciously warn a young child away from a hot oven would also casually hand that child a sparkler on Independence Day, not realizing the nonexplosive firework burns at 1,800 degrees.
The need for more public education on fireworks -- and those who receive it to exercise it -- will always exist, according to recently retired Bartlett assistant fire chief Mike Figolah.
As past president of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, Figolah joined with other public safety and health officials at Bartlett Fire Protection District headquarters Friday to explain and demonstrate how fireworks can affect kids, pets and combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
By way of proving the threat to children even sparklers pose, Figolah had a wooden dummy dressed in the T-shirt, shorts and baseball cap many kids wear in summer.
He explained how children instinctively like to run with sparklers, and how easy it is for them to bump into another child and touch their clothing.
Touching a sparkler to the dummy's T-shirt appeared to do no more than leave a tiny scorch mark.
But just as a real child might not immediately realize anything had happened, it took nearly half a minute for that scorch mark to expand to visible flames eating away the shirt and reaching up to the head of the dummy.
Figolah also told the real story of a young girl who had a spark fall into her shoe. By the time an adult figured out something was wrong and took the shoe off to look, much of the foot's burned tissue came off with the shoe.
Just because some kinds of fireworks may be legal in some places, it doesn't make any of them safe, Figolah said.
That point was reinforced by his former colleague, Bartlett Fire Chief Michael Falsese.
"Our message is simple -- we urge you to leave the fireworks to the professionals," Falese said. "Please do not be a statistic this year."
As far as statistics go, recent data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows there are roughly 11,000 injuries and seven deaths in the nation each year due to fireworks.
Pet owners are urged to use extra caution around the holiday to make their animals feel safe and secure in the midst of the loud explosions. July 5 is often the busiest day for animal shelters due to the number of pets that have run away.
And anyone who uses fireworks near their home is urged to be sensitive to veterans with PTSD who may suffer an exaggerated startle response, said Patrick McGrath, clinical director of Amita Health's Center for Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
Such veterans are likely to be better able to cope if they can at least anticipate the timing of the fireworks, he added.
And even if a family restricts its fireworks viewing to professional shows, the ears of infants should be protected, said Dr. Maricruz Pajares of the Amita Health Medical Group's Family Medicine in Bartlett. Hearing problems may not show up until significantly later, she said.