Ah, the Fourth of July: the barbecues, the family fun, the festive, red, white, and blue garb, and, of course, the main attraction— the fireworks. What would Independence Day be without soaking in a sky full of exploding colors, accompanied by a soundtrack of “ooohs” and “ahhhs”?

Yep, it’s safe to say that watching a good fireworks show is on the top of the list of how most Americans would want to spend their Fourths. But having said that, it’s important to acknowledge that some folks like to take the tradition a bit further than others.

You see, when it comes to celebrating July 4th, there are two ways to do it: go see a professional fireworks display, OR purchase your own fireworks and make a display of your own.

Predictably, the latter is much more dangerous; in fact, a whopping 9,300 serious injuries are reported in the U.S. each and every year due to non-professionals improperly setting off store-bought fireworks. And what makes this statistic even scarier is the fact that about 45% of that population are children under the age of 14.

That’s no way to celebrate with your kiddos, is it?!

Because we have a sneaking suspicion that at least some of you out there will not be deterred by the reports of injuries, we thought it would be a good idea to do a little safety refresher to ensure that we are all setting off our store-bought fireworks properly.

So, we consulted the National Council on Fireworks to find the most important safety tips that we should ALL be following this holiday. These guys know their stuff!

Here are 9 safety rules that you MUST follow if you’re setting off your own fireworks this year…

  1. Check your local laws before setting off any fireworks

    Just because you bought an arsenal of fireworks the next county over doesn’t mean that you can legally light them in your own town or county. Because these laws and ordinances are usually very site-specific, it’s important that you open up that computer and double-check your home regulations first, before you receive a ticket— or worse!

  2. Refrain from consuming alcohol or drugs when using fireworks

    Sure, we might all want to celebrate America’s independence with a few drinks, but you should probably wait until AFTER your personal fireworks show is done before you indulge. Foggy heads and fireworks just don’t mix!

  3. Children must be supervised when using ALL kinds of fireworks

    And we’re not just talking about the big crackles, people; we include the seemingly kid-friendly sparklers and firecrackers as part of the list, too! Believe it or not, sparklers cause the most fireworks-related injuries per year, with burns on the hands and head being the primary malady. Not as tame as you thought they were, huh?

  4. Read those caution labels–they’re there for a reason!

    Only a dummy would set off fireworks without first reading the labels! Additionally, you will want to make sure that you didn’t accidentally happen upon illegal merchandise— something that, unfortunately, is not uncommon these days. These varieties are typically labeled as “M80s” and sometimes come in brown paper bags. If this sounds like something you purchased, don’t take the risk!

  5. Wear your safety glasses

    Nearly 16% of annual fireworks injuries occur on the eye area. Because of this, experts are now suggesting that all fireworks technicians — even the amateur ones — wear safety glasses for protection. Makes sense!

  6. Keep a bucket of water and a hose nearby

    Did you know that an incredible 20,000 fires are caused in the U.S. every year due to mishandled fireworks? Don’t be part of that statistic! Keep a bucket of water and/or a hose nearby, just in case something goes awry during your display.

  7. Don’t forget about your beloved pet

    For dogs and cats, the 4th of July is pure torture! The loud noises are especially rough on their ultra-sensitive ears and it can end up creating a lot of anxiety for your fur babies. This means that you should NEVER have them outside with you when you light the fireworks, and it also means that you should take the proper precautions to keep them comfy in your home. Here are some ways we do it.

  8. Don’t attempt to re-light a “dud” firework

    Ever have a firework that has just refused to go off? It’s an annoying scenario, but it doesn’t mean that it will get any better if you try to light it AGAIN. As a matter of fact, doing so might cause a delayed explosion, which could result in injury or death. Instead of re-lighting, simply leave it alone for 20 minutes, then soak it in cool water before throwing it away. Better safe than sorry!

  9. Dispose of spent fireworks properly

    There is only ONE way to properly dispose of “spent” fireworks: by soaking them in water and throwing them away in a metal trash can. Get it? Got it? Good!

What are your thoughts on store-bought fireworks? Do you set off your own? Do you let your kids play with sparklers?