There’s the old joke: Independence Day is the holiday when we show how much we love our country by blowing up a small part of it.
No doubt fireworks can be incredibly fun.
But come July 4, you need to know how to have a blast (pun intended) without breaking the law or putting yourself and others at risk.
Only novelty and trick fireworks can be set off by members of the public without special licenses. These include party poppers, glow worms, snappers, smoke devices, trick matches, booby traps, and the like — things that pop, smoke and sparkle.
Of course, you’re free to buy bigger fireworks from properly licensed vendors. But you can’t set off consumer or 1.4g charges in Ohio.
In fact, all such fireworks have to be transported out of the state within 48 hours of purchase.
This is the first year you don’t have to sign a “Liar’s Law” consent form when purchasing big fireworks. But if you’re caught with them, first-time offenders can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent convictions are fifth-degree felonies that can carry one-year prison terms.
Large-fireworks launches with 1.3g aerial shells can only be set off by licensed distributors with permits from both the local fire and police chiefs, and on sites that meet Ohio fire marshal criteria after an inspection.
If you do plan to set off fireworks in celebration of our nation’s birthday, here’s some advice from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:
• Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
• Be sure to read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
• Have a responsible adult supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
• Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
• Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
• Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
• Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from buildings and vehicles.
• Never relight a “dud.” Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
• Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
• Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
• Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
• Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
• Federal Aviation Administration regulations prohibit the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
• Report illegal explosives, such as M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.
Sources: National Council on Fireworks Safety, Ohio State Bar Association, Ohio Fire Marshal