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Response to: NFPA President, Jim Shannon, RE: Fireworks Legislation Doesn’t Work For Massachusetts Letter to Editor of The Patriot Ledger (April 13, 2014)
46 States plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, allow citizens to celebrate their pride and patriotism with some types of federally regulated consumer fireworks. Massachusetts, along with NY, NJ and DE are the only 4 states that still have long-standing prohibitions on all consumer fireworks. Contrary to your opinion, Mr. Shannon, consumer fireworks are safe when used properly. Moreover, with the trend to relax state fireworks laws, consumer fireworks have never been safer. The data speaks for itself: the fireworks-related injury rate is 43% lower than it was in 2000 when the trend in relaxing consumer fireworks laws was first initiated. Additionally, according to data released by the U.S. Fire Administration's National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), which NFPA heavily relies upon, since 2000, fireworks-related fires have declined by more than 50% and are at the lowest number in 3 decades!
Where consumer fireworks are legal, both fires and injuries decrease because individuals can take the time to plan their fireworks activities and practice common sense safety precautions. When citizens use them illegally (and yes, Americans will celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks whether they are legal or not and even cross state borders to purchase them, which is a huge problem in Massachusetts) the injuries and fires tend to increase because people are careless as they are trying to get away with an activity that is prohibited.
As noted above, with the liberalization of consumer fireworks laws across the U.S., the fireworks-related injury rate and the number of fires associated with consumer fireworks has dramatically declined.
The bill pending in MA would only allow hand-held and ground-based sparking devices. A subset of what is currently federally regulated and allowed for the vast majority of Americans to purchase and use in all but 4 states in the U.S.
I say it's time for MA to join the 46 other U.S. states, DC and Puerto Rico, that allow their citizens to celebrate with federally regulated consumer fireworks and for NFPA --a leader in safety & fire prevention --to join in a REAL safety campaign promoting safe and responsible consumer fireworks use. NFPA's long-standing 1910 anti-fireworks message promoting a prohibition on consumer fireworks clearly is not working and simply falls upon deaf ears since the overwhelming number of states have chosen a different path, to allow some types of consumer fireworks sales and use. The consumer fireworks-related injury data along with the fire data, substantiate that legalization is far better than prohibition!
It is interesting to note that Mr. Shannon claims that consumer fireworks are so dangerous on one hand that he, and the NFPA are leading the charge to prohibit them, yet, the NFPA recently decided to de-regulate consumer fireworks retail sales and storage by withdrawing the NFPA standard that provided fire & life safety requirements to protect the public where consumer fireworks are stored and sold. The withdrawal of those essential fire & life safety requirements has left the enforcement community with no guidance but to simply regulate consumer fireworks retail sales facilities as any other store, with no specific requirements to meet at all. As an advocate for consumer fireworks safety, the withdraw of NFPA 1124 makes zero sense. NFPA may not be an advocate for the legalization of fireworks, but I doubt the organization is an advocate for cigarette smoking either, yet the NFPA was a leader in advocating safety to prevent residential fires related to cigarette smoking. Gutting the consumer fireworks retail sales and storage requirements from 1124 was a very unwise decision. Mr. Shannon, you let your personal bias against consumer fireworks, deter NFPA's true safety mission as you have eliminated all requirements governing venues where consumer fireworks are sold. I think the general public will be extremely disappointed to learn that personal bias won out over protecting the public where consumer fireworks are sold. And you left the overtaxed fire officials who heavily rely upon NFPA for guidance, empty handed.
Julie L. Heckman, Executive Director
Click here to view Mr. Shannon's letter to the editor opposing fireworks legislation in Massachusetts.