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Fireworks? Know the Law, Use Caution, and Be Courteous!

June 28, 2018
Fireworks explode in the night air.

Not long ago in Georgia, fireworks were a delight to be enjoyed only at the occasional professional display, usually put on around a holiday. Buying and igniting your own? Pft. You had to visit friends or relatives in neighboring states for that.

Lately, Georgia has loosened up.

What’s Legal

First the state began allowing sales of “novelty” fireworks — sparklers and such — in 2005. A decade later, sales of all consumer fireworks were legalized.

Each year since, the Georgia General Assembly has adjusted the law regarding when fireworks can be used and how they may be regulated.

Here is an up-to-date summary, as of July 1, 2018:

You can legally use fireworks:

  • Any day between 10 a.m. and 11:59 p.m.
    • New legislation effective July 1, 2018 gives local authorities the option to restrict the use of fireworks at certain times, provided the restriction is part of a general noise ordinance that does not apply solely to fireworks.
  • Regardless of local legislation, the use of fireworks is legal until 11:59 p.m. statewide around certain holidays:
    • Memorial Day (last Saturday and Sunday in May)
      • Note, these dates do not include the Monday of Memorial Day
    • Independence Day (July 3 and 4)
    • Labor Day (first Monday in September)
    • New Year's Eve (December 31, extended to 1 a.m. on January 1)

It is illegal to use fireworks:

  • Within 100 yards of any of the following:
    • Electric plant
    • Water treatment plant
    • Waste-water treatment plant
    • Gas station
    • Refinery
    • Electric substation
    • Jail or prison
    • Helipad
    • Hospital
    • Nursing home
    • Other health care facility
  • Within any park, historic site, recreational area, or other state property
  • While under the influence of alcohol or drugs

You must be at least 18 years old to purchase fireworks.

If It’s Dry, Fireworks Don’t Fly

The Governor may ban the use of fireworks in any area of Georgia that is under drought (as defined by a measure of 700 or higher on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index).

You don’t have to wait for an official declaration, though. If local conditions are dry, err on the side of caution. You’d probably rather call off fireworks than call in the fire department.

Tax Usage

A 5% tax has been applied to the sale of fireworks since they were made legal in 2015.

In 2016, Georgia voters approved a measure stipulating proceeds from the tax be used to fund “trauma care, fire protection services, and public safety.” Current law divides the money as follows:

Safety

Fireworks are beautiful to behold, but they can be dangerous to use.

In 2017, an estimated 12,900 people required emergency medical treatment for fireworks injuries in the United States, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

There were 8 deaths.

About two-thirds of the year’s fireworks injuries occurred around Independence Day (between June 16, 2017 and July 16, 2017).

Sparklers

They may seem innocuous, and they are classed as “novelty” fireworks, but sparklers burn HOT — around 2,000 degrees.

Sparklers accounted for 14% of all fireworks injuries in 2017, more than any other single type of firework.

Treat them seriously, do not give them to young children, and supervise their use by older children.

Safety Checklist

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
  • Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Never pick up or try to re-light fireworks that fail to ignite (“duds”).
  • Never point or throw fireworks at anyone.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • Soak used fireworks with plenty of water before discarding.

Find more safety advice at the CPSC Fireworks Information Center.

Courtesy

Fireworks are not fun for everyone.

Respect the law and do not use fireworks outside the legally permitted times. (Learn your local law; noise regulations in your community may restrict fireworks usage more than state law.)

Fireworks can be especially stressful for combat veterans and people with certain cognitive impairments.

Know your neighbors and be sensitive to their needs.

Pets may also react poorly to fireworks. Make sure yours are properly supervised. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers detailed advice for handling pets around fireworks.

Jon Suggs

About the Author

Jon Suggs is the Content Strategist for Digital Services Georgia. He writes on a variety of topics for Georgia.gov.

Jon is a Georgia native and former journalist who has worked in state government for more than a decade.

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