Setting off fireworks as part of a holiday celebration, or whenever you’re feeling festive, is fun. When you get some of your buddies or neighbors in on it, you can create a display that rivals any professional’s – or at least feel like you do.
However, just because you can’t wait to show off all the amazing fireworks you bought online doesn’t mean everyone in your neighborhood is as excited. In fact, they might not be enthusiastic about them at all, and if you don’t use your manners, you could find yourself having a “conversation” with local law enforcement.
Since no one ever intends to be a jerk, thinking about others and taking precautions before you start shooting off bottle rockets is a smart thing to do. Here’s how you can avoid being “that guy” and big fines (or worse) from the authorities.
Know the Rules
This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people hear “fireworks are legal” and start setting them off whenever and wherever. Before you start your private display, check the rules where you are. Many homeowner’s associations have banned fireworks, as well as individual cities and towns in states where they are otherwise legal. Some municipalities allow residents to set off fireworks, but only within certain parameters, i.e., specific dates or within certain areas. To avoid running afoul of the law, review the rules, and be prepared to change your plans to stay out of trouble.
Use Your Manners
If you plan to set off fireworks at home, or where others are around (like your lake house), let your neighbors know as a courtesy. Fireworks can be triggering to people who have anxiety or PTSD, especially veterans, and often scare pets. Letting your neighbors know your plans can help them prepare. Send them a quick text or post on the neighborhood social media pages, or even knock on their doors if you can’t reach them otherwise. A simple message like “Just wanted to give you a heads up that we’ll be lighting off some fireworks around 9 pm tonight to celebrate Junior’s birthday. We’ll be done by 9:30,” can go a long way toward maintaining goodwill between neighbors. You might even think about inviting them over to enjoy the festivities, too.
Some of your neighbors may be less than enthusiastic about your plans. If it’s legal to use fireworks when you plan to, they can’t stop you from doing so, but realize that you could be creating tension in the neighborhood. At the very least, listen to their concerns and try to reach a compromise. You might need to adjust the timing of your display or cut out some of the louder fireworks to appease your neighbors. Just think about how you would feel if some jerk woke up your sleeping baby with fireworks, and act accordingly.
When used properly, fireworks elicit “oohs” and “aaahs,” but there are plenty of ways for things to go wrong. Never purchase fireworks intended for professional use; you can tell by the brown wrappers. Follow the instructions exactly. If something doesn’t have instructions, or isn’t clearly labeled, it’s probably illegal. Don’t light anything unless you are absolutely sure you know what it will do.
Safety first also means only lighting fireworks in clear, open areas away from homes, foliage, and anything else that could catch on fire. Choose fireworks that are appropriate for the area. Bottle rockets or anything that does not ignite immediately above where you’re standing aren’t ideal in neighborhoods, especially when the debris starts landing in their swimming pools and backyards. Save those for shooting in open areas or over water.
Clean Up After Yourself
When the festivities end, take a few moments to clean up any debris that is left behind, especially if you have been celebrating in a public area, like a beach. Not only is leaving a mess behind rude, but it can also be harmful to wildlife, pets, and children. Be especially careful to pick up any fireworks that have not fully ignited. Douse them with water before putting in the garbage.
There is nothing wrong with lighting off a few incendiary devices when you do it safely and responsibly and if you are courteous with your celebrations, you might just end up being the most popular guy around.