Local law enforcement agencies, fire departments and emergency rooms are preparing for an explosion of fireworks incidents that accompany Fourth of July festivities.
Dr. Judith Welsh, who works with Southwest General Health Center’s Brunswick Emergency Department, said the emergency room will be on high alert.
“The Fourth of July is one of the worst days of the year for trauma in general and for fireworks specifically,” she said. “The problem is when people don’t respect the device in their hands.”
The Consumer Products Safety Commission released its annual fireworks report Tuesday that showed 8,800 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide for fireworks-related injuries in 2009. An estimated 5,900 fireworksrelated injuries, or 67 percent of people treated, occurred during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July holiday.
Dr. Rick Kessler, of Summa’s Wadsworth-Rittman and Barberton hospitals, said he will see injuries ranging from sparkler burns to serious hand injuries from fireworks.
“Plastic surgeons and hand surgeons are ready every Fourth of July because injuries are pretty common,” he said, especially around the weekend.
Andre Goe, educator and inspector for the Medina Fire Department, instructs families how to safely use legal fireworks, which include sparklers and are commonly known as “novelty” fireworks. He said there’s still danger associated with those.
“There’s a lot of people getting hurt and injured (from the novelty fireworks) that you’ll never hear about like you do the big things,” he said.
For example, he noted sparklers can burn at 1,800 degrees.
“Even once they go out, they’re still hot,” Goe said. “You need to have a bucket of water” to dispose of them.
He said one adult should be the point person in charge of making sure everything is safe.
“That person should know the hazards of each different firework. Then they’re more concentrated on the safety end of everything,” he said.
Sheriff Neil Hassinger said his department also will be on high alert throughout the weekend.
“It’s illegal to shoot them in Ohio. If we get complaints on it, we’re going to take enforcement action,” he said.
The possession of fireworks and discharging them are firstdegree misdemeanors, which can be punished by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Matt Lanier, a prosecutor for the cities of Medina and Brunswick, said those who are cited often are sentenced to probation and receive fines of between $500 and $700.
“I would suppose a repeat offender for fireworks, someone who has a pattern of this type of activity, would have a chance of seeing jail time,” he said.
Lt. Bob Starcher of the Medina Police Department said most officers’ time in the coming days will be taken up responding to fireworks calls.
“Those might keep us from something that’s more serious. It takes up a lot of manpower to respond to a lot of different (fireworks) calls,” he said.
Nick Solar, community policing coordinator for the Brunswick department, noted most fireworks are used in conjunction with parties.
“People usually get together for gatherings and then alcohol becomes a factor because they’ve been drinking,” he said. “It’s an explosive situation.”
Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.