Good morning and welcome to our annual tradition of coming together here on the National Mall to talk about fireworks safety before we all celebrate the Fourth of July.
I am Inez Tenenbaum, Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This is my second year of hosting this exciting press event, and I am so pleased to be joined once again by our federal law enforcement and homeland security partners.
We are also joined this year by a special guest who has a powerful story to tell - a story that everyone who plans to purchase and use fireworks must hear.
The numbers speak to the importance of our event today. Consumers should know that there are about 200 injuries each day involving fireworks during the month surrounding the holiday - 200 injuries each day. And as we will hear from Jason, many of these injuries can be life altering.
Our newest data report indicates a drop in fireworks related fatalities. From seven (7) in 2008 to two (2) in 2009. That’s good news; but unfortunately, there were an estimated 8,800 injuries last year.
More than half of the injuries that occur during this time of year are related to incidents with firecrackers, bottle rockets, and sparklers.
We all need to stay vigilant when it comes to fireworks safety, so that we can report next year that there has been a decline in both deaths and injuries.
Now along with vigilance, we are also calling upon the public to use the legal fireworks safely and stay away from the illegal ones.
We are encouraging families to "Put Safety In Play During the Fourth of July." That means keep the 2000 degree sparklers out of the hands of children, and create a safety zone if you are going to ignite firecrackers or aerials.
The two deaths that occurred last year involved aerial shells. A forty-one (41) year old man died in an explosion of a professional display mortar shell that he lit in his backyard.
And a twenty-six (26) year old man lit a consumer grade mortar shell that was in a launching tube held over his head. The shell discharged from the bottom of the tube resulting in a skull fracture.
Again, for those who plan to experience fireworks from the backyard, instead of the local fairground or school, our message is clear: never, ever allow children to play with or be around them unsupervised, and adults should use caution when setting them off.
All of us here on this stage also urge consumers to follow the laws in your state, city, or county on the purchase and use of fireworks.
Now we know full well that our safety message is competing with Internet videos in which children, teenagers and adults try to create eye-catching explosions with fireworks.
Well, we are going to show you soon, just how serious and even deadly it can be to not use fireworks safely.
Jason will speak about the power of an M80, but teenagers and adults have also been hurt by improperly used bottle rockets and illegal cherry bombs, M1000s, and professional fireworks.
The message on illegal and professional fireworks is crystal clear:
don’t make them,
don’t purchase them,
and don’t go near them.
I want the public to know that the federal government - your federal government - is working together to keep illegal fireworks out of the country, to catch those who bring them in, and to make sure consumer fireworks meet U.S. safety rules.
To this end, CPSC also is announcing a fireworks recall today. Nearly 5000 Super Lighting Rockets are being recalled today by the company Big Fireworks.
These rockets were found to be overloaded with pyrotechnic material which violates the federal rules. This violation could cause the rockets to have a greater than expected explosion and put consumers at risk of burns and bodily harm.
I want to commend CPSC’s fireworks safety team for securing this recall and encourage consumers to learn more about it on our website, CPSC.gov.
Again, our coordinated, proactive efforts are aimed at saving lives and keeping consumers celebrating and playing with the family during Independence Day - and not ending up in the hospital.
From my home state of South Carolina to other states that allow fireworks, I realize that fireworks are often a part of the family tradition of celebrating the Fourth.
But just because the law allows you to use consumers fireworks that doesn’t mean you do not have any responsibilities.
As you light a firework, keep in mind your responsibility to keep yourself, your family, and those around you safe.
have a bucket of water or a garden hose on hand;
never relight or pick up a firework that didn’t go off;
light one at a time, on a flat, dry surface; and
never have your body over the device as you are lighting the fuse.
The Fourth of July is such a wonderful time of year. Whether you are heading out to watch the brilliant display of fireworks at a community event or celebrating in the backyard - put safety in play.
Now it is my pleasure to introduce Chief Glenn Gaines, the Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Chief Gaines is a highly respected leader in the fire services community, he has roots in Fairfax County, and is now the top official at the United States Fire Administration. Chief Gaines, it is wonderful to have you join us today.
Thank you Chief.
I would now like to introduce Dan Baldwin, Assistant Commissioner at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. CBP is a vital partner of CPSC and Dan has played a key role in our collective effort to keep dangerous imports - especially fireworks - out of our country. Dan.
Thank you Dan.
I now have the pleasure of introducing Arthur Herbert, the Assistant Director for Enforcement Programs and Services at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Arthur is a 30 year employee at ATF and a strong supporter of the collaboration that ATF agents and CPSC investigators have across the country. Together we are stopping illegal manufacturers and distributors of highly dangerous explosives, even putting some in prison. Arthur.
Thank you Arthur.
Finally, we are pleased to have a special guest joining us this year: Jason Henderson. Jason lost both hands and sight in his right eye during a serious incident involving M80s. Jason has worked with ATF and become a strong advocate for the prevention of fireworks injuries. I urge all consumers to listen to Jason and heed his advice.
Jason, we sincerely thank you for your courage in joining us today and for sharing a first person account of the risks that fireworks can pose.
Instead of taking questions at this time, we are going to transition to our demonstrations. All of our speakers and I will be available for one on one interviews after the demonstrations are complete.
Joel Recht, Director of the Chemistry Division at our Laboratory and a key official at CPSC in the testing of fireworks, will be leading the media through our much anticipated fireworks demonstrations.