Texas Firemen

Showing a broad commitment to better education the public, state fire service associations and the Texas Pyrotechnic Association (TPA) are working together to promote safety and education of fireworks. The organizations are combining efforts to make sure every Texas citizen can have a safe and happy holiday season this Fourth of July.

On April 27, 1999, State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas' Executive Director Helen Campbell, along with representatives from such agencies as the Texas Forest Service, the Rural Fire Advisory Council and the Commission on Fire Protection, met with the Texas Pyrotechnic Association to address fireworks safety in our state. The meeting was a successful start in identifying ways the service associations and the TPA can collectively broaden their safety education efforts.

Hope for the success of this joint effort between industries that have traditionally had differing objectives for the fireworks seasons results from increased industry activity and educational efforts. While fireworks use has quadrupled over the past 20 years, firework-related injuries have dropped 44 percent (according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) and numbers of firework-related fires have stabilized or declined in recent years. Lower incident statistics can be credited to the improved quality of firework products, but incidents are still occurring as a result of misuse and abuse of the products. There is continuing evidence that people need more education with safety guidelines for using fireworks.

The fire service associations and the TPA agreed the most effective way to reduce firework-related injuries and fires is to concentrate on raising safety awareness. The vast majority of firework-related injuries and fires occur due to improper use, ignoring safety guidelines or the use of illegal explosives. As a result of the meeting, the organizations involved agreed to design a safety and education campaign, involving updated public service announcements, flyers, printed bags, labeling explanations, and opportunities for groups to share information and ideas.

The TPA represents manufacturers, distributors and approximately 5,000 stand operators throughout Texas. Over the last several years, the association has enhanced their safety and education efforts and dedicated resources to working with involvement with counties to address firework risks. Many Texas regions have experienced severe drought conditions in the past. In 1996, the TPA and member companies voluntarily removed stick rockets and missiles with fins and rudders. These items traditionally comprise over 40 percent of retail fireworks sales. While the association also produced a series of public service announcements and safety brochures calling attention to safety precautions and the proper use of fireworks, they recognized that broader participation was necessary to maximize public participation in the safety campaign.

In the recent legislative session, the TPA worked with the Texas Forest Service and other fire protection associations on legislation (House Bill 2107 by Representative Robert Cook) to establish the Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Fund. The bill would dedicate a percentage of firework sales tax revenue to the fund for volunteer fire departments to use in paying for equipment and training of personnel. The TPA also donated funds for the Texas Forest Service to purchase much needed weather stations in key drought regions of the state to improve monitoring of weather conditions. These efforts demonstrate the value of our mutual associations working together to work with others to achieve a collective goal of preventing firework-related incidents.

We believe the Fourth of July and next year's Millennium festivities will be an unprecedented celebration for firework use in our country in the U.S. and worldwide. By combining efforts, the state fire service organizations and the fireworks industry can increase safety and educate Texas citizens on the proper use and handling of all fireworks.

(Editor's Note: Royce Trout is President of Atlas Enterprises, a manufacturer and distributor of consumer and display fireworks. He also serves as the Director of Public Relations for the Texas Pyrotechnic Association, a Director of the National Council of Fireworks Safety Board, and the President of the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory.)

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