Fireworks can turn summer fun into a home insurance claim in a flash

Justin Stoltzfus

Fireworks light up the sky every Fourth of July. But injuries, fires and home insurance claims are also a part of this sparkly tradition.

Home insurance coverage

Basic home insurance covers fires. But if those fires are caused by fireworks your family sets off, your policy may not cover you if they are illegal in your area, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners NAIC).

Even if your city allows fireworks, NAIC recommends getting in touch with your home insurance company. Your policy may contain restrictions and safety requirements. Keep in mind, if someone else not a family member) damages your home with fireworks, you're covered whether they're legal or not.

Fun but dangerous

Even if you have the right home insurance coverage, setting off fireworks on your property entails explosive risks. Fireworks are designed to shoot hot sparks in every direction and can reach temperatures of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Fire Protection Association NFPA).

More fires are reported on the Fourth of July than on any other day, according to NFPA, and more than half of these fires are caused by Americans shooting off rockets in their backyards. In 2008, fireworks caused about 22,500 fires and $42 million in property damage.

In addition to putting your home and your neighbors' homes) in danger, fireworks can cause serious injuries. In 2008, hospital emergency rooms treated about 7,000 fireworks-related injuries, according to NFPA. About 40 percent of these injuries happened to children younger than age 15. Hands, fingers and eyes were the most injured body parts -- and sparklers and small firecrackers were the most common culprits.

An ounce of prevention

Five states ban all use of fireworks by consumers, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. The rest have varying restrictions on the types of fireworks that can be used.

Even if your state allows consumer fireworks, you should take responsibility for your family's safety when using these over-the-counter party products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm and NFPA recommend the following firework safety tips while celebrating Independence Day:

Follow all of the directions on the fireworks' packaging.

  • Supervise children and adolescents.
  • Keep water and fire extinguishers nearby.
  • Don't store fireworks in bulk in case they explode before you want them to), and set them off one at a time.
  • Buy fireworks only from a licensed store or stand -- not from the seller's home or car. Never use homemade fireworks.
  • Light fireworks in a clear area that's free of flammable materials like dried leaves or grass.

If a firework doesn't go off, don't try to relight it. Instead, submerge it in water.

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