A dangerous celebration
New Year’s eve is just around the corner. Exploding firecrackers forms part of the usual revelry to welcome the new year, notwithstanding the massive government campaign to remind the public of the scary things that can happen resulting from firecracker injuries.
December of each year has been declared Firecracker Injury Prevention Month, as a concerted effort of government agencies and private organizations to reduce injuries from all pyrotechnic devices during the holiday celebration. The children, particularly, have to be protected because in their innocent bliss, they seem to be completely unmindful of what could happen to them due to firework-related injuries. Based on previous years’ records, most of the victims are children aged 14 and below, sufferring from burns on face, arms and hands.
The Department of Health (DOH) spearheads the yearly campaign against firecrackers and pyrotechnics. Early this year, it issued Administrative Order No. 2014-0002, the Revised National Policy on Violence and Injury Prevention, which defines the roles of all concerned agencies to reduce deaths, injuries and disability caused by fireworks-related accidents.
It’s really difficult to understand that despite the graphic images of victims who lost lives and limbs due to firecrackers—published in newspapers and flashed on television—many don’t seem to care about all these reminders of serious injuries due to careless handling of firecrackers. Worse, many adults explode eardrum-piercing firecrackers while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. So the risk of injury is even much higher.
The DOH has issued some safety precautions to prevent injuries. These include the following:
- Light firecrackers outdoors.
- Light one firecracker at a time.
- Do not hold a firecracker while lighting it.
- Do not pick up failed firecrackers as they can still explode.
- When lighting fireworks like a fountain, do not bend directly over the pyrotechnic.
- Do not throw firecrackers at passing people or vehicles.
- Do not let children hold firecrackers.
- Seek prompt medical attention for accidental ingestion of firecrackers like watusi by children and adults.
Local chief executives are mandated to assign specific firecracker and pyrotechnic zones in their localities, where firecrackers may be sold and where people may explode them, as well as light other pyrotechnic devices. Since making noise during New Year’s eve is believed to drive out the bad spirits and usher in good luck for the new year, alternative noise-making activities are encouraged, like holding street concerts, honking vehicle horns, striking cans, pots and pan, and turning the maximum volume for radio music.
We can still have a “noisy” New Year’s eve celebration with these alternative practices, so perhaps having a national ban on firecrackers would not be such a bad idea. We can still have fireworks at the strike of midnight, which can be organized by the local government units. And these are better left on the hands of the professionals.
Two cities in the country, namely, Davao and Zamboanga, have imposed a total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers; and there is no strong opposition to the ban because the constituents in these two cities know it’s for their own good. If it could be done in these two cities, why can’t it be adopted for the whole country?
Perhaps our legislators should amend Republic Act No. 7183, the Firecrackers Law, so that it not only regulates the manufacture, distribution and sale of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices but also ban them for public use. Only trained professionals should be allowed to use them.
Healthwise, there is a strong argument to implement the ban. Firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices contain chemicals that may cause respiratory problems and their improper use can result in serious injuries, not only to the ones using them but even to innocent bystanders.
It’s about time that we stop celebrating the coming of the new year dangerously. This coming New Year’s eve, may our hearts be merry, and our limbs and body remain complete—uninjured by firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices.
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