As South Florida gets ready for a day of cookouts, boating and fireworks for the Fourth, here’s a simple reminder:
Don’t blow your hand off, get shot, wreck your car in a drunken stupor or double-over from warm potato salad.
The people responsible for your safety — cops, firefighters, public health officials — want you to stay safe out there.
Unfortunately, a pre-Fourth fireworks tragedy has already maimed a Broward man when a golf ball-sized mortar took out most of his hand.
“When things go bad with fireworks they go really bad, and often before 911 can respond. It could have been a much more tragic outcome,” said BSO officer Mike Jachels.
Earlier this week, Shanard Saxon, 41, had to have his hand amputated after the accident. Saxon, of Pompano Beach, was at a friend’s house when the accident happened, and the Broward Sheriff’s Bomb Squad seized thousands of dollars worth of fireworks, all of which were legally owned, police say.
Sixty percent of all fireworks injuries last year occurred in the month surrounding Independence Day, and about 24 percent of those injuries happened as a result of sparklers and bottle rockets, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Devin Cuson, 41, who has been a roadside firework seller for a decade, has some safety advice for the both the over-achievers and the amateurs out there.
“You should always be in an open area, have a bucket of water nearby, try to use something safe to light [the fireworks] like a barbecue lighter,” said Cuson of Miami Gardens. And when it comes to children (who are at greatest risk for injury according to the National Fire Protection Association), Cuson says parents and guardians should just use common sense.
“They shouldn’t be up close to any lighter, and they should never put their face in front of anything, they should always be a safe distance away.”
That’s why Jodi Atkison, who’s been hosting her neighbors on the Fourth in her Palmetto Bay home for years, chooses to let her husband handle things. She still worries when he goes into the backyard to light the fireworks, but says that he and her neighbors always keep an eye on any children at the party.
“We definitely make sure their parents are with them, there’s a dad and a mom with the kids at all times,” Atkison said.
Susan Wong, 60, works at the Firework Lady stand in Davie and says when customers buy larger fireworks they take extra measures to make sure families know the risks involved.
"We have safety brochures that we give out with the big packs," Wong said.
Melissa Magen of Hollywood spent more than $600 on heavy-duty fireworks at the TNT Fireworks store in Dania Beach. The mother of four says that she’s had a set plan for years on how to keep kids safe when they start the show.
"The adults stand ahead and make a barrier and the kids sit in chairs and watch," Magen said. "We do it in the park in our community."
Miramar resident, Serlo Mathelier, 42, has been shopping at TNT Fireworks for the past 10 years and says the company’s solid reputation keeps him coming back and has helped him create a strategy to stay safe during the holiday.
"If you have a good amount of land space you can use a protective board that keeps the rocket from ricocheting and going all over the place," Mathelier said.