UPMC Mercy Burn Center Promotes Fireworks Safety

By: Mia Sterling and Kate Irwin

UPMC Mercy Burn Center Promotes Fireworks Safety

The UPMC Mercy Burn Center teamed up with the Burn Prevention Network and Pittsburgh Public Safety to host “Celebrate Safely, PA!”, an event focused on preventing firework-related injuries.  

“Every year in the two weeks preceding and following the Fourth of July, we see about 70% of all the firework-related injuries that occur throughout the year” said Dr. Jenny Ziembicki, director of the UPMC Mercy Burn Center.  

Legal firework usage is at an all-time high in the United States. Though they can add excitement and joy to celebrations, fireworks also can cause severe burns, loss of limbs and even death when not used appropriately. With fireworks sales nearly doubling in the past year, firework-related injuries also have escalated, nearly doubling. The American Burn Association reports that hands, feet, legs, fingers and eyes are the most commonly injured areas, with 44% of firework-related injuries being burns.   

“Our mission is simple. We want to create a world without burns. Making that happen takes a lot of work. We are trying to get everybody to understand the experience and ramifications of mishandling fireworks,” explained Santo Piccolomini, a burn survivor and board member of the Burn Prevention Network. 

“What I hope people take away from this fireworks safety demonstration is how much your life can change in a second and the importance of handling fireworks properly,” added Piccolomini.

“This is a serious matter. A lot of folks are put at risk for injury, and lives are at stake when fireworks are misused,” said Brian Kokkila, assistant chief of risk management, City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire. Last year, firework-related complaints were so high that the city created a special Fireworks Task Force, which issues warnings, citations and hefty fines for the misuse of fireworks.     

“We encourage everybody to leave fireworks to the professionals,” stated Ziembicki. “For those who do choose to use legal fireworks, if you follow basic safety rules, you can prevent the devastating injuries that we see every year.” 

 The Burn Prevention Network offers these tips to keep you safe if you choose to use fireworks: 

  • Never allow your fireworks to land on someone else’s property.
  • Do not discharge fireworks within 150 feet of a structure.
  • Properly discard used fireworks or sparklers by placing them in a bucket of water.
  • Assume that if they did not go off, they are still live. Never attempt to relight them—instead douse them in water before picking them up.
  • Children or inebriated adults should never light or handle any fireworks, including sparklers.
  • Use protective gear, like safety gloves and eyewear, when handling.

For further information on the trauma and burn services available at UPMC Mercy, visit the UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center.