The Omaha area conducted an interesting social experiment over the July 4 holiday.
Would people abuse the privilege of being allowed to shoot off fireworks?
Would they disrespect their neighbors, that is, by firing off the explosives for a long string of days? Would they set off the bangs and kabooms far into the night, well past a sensible cut-off point? And would they shrug off their responsibility to clean up their fireworks litter once their noisy fun had ended?
The holiday has passed, and the results of the experiment are in. The answers … well, they’re pretty clear, aren’t they?
All you have to do is look around at the fireworks debris trashing people’s yards and neighborhood sidewalks and streets throughout the metro area. Or listen to residents who watched fireworks land on their roofs, wondering if it would kindle a fire.
All you have to do is talk to residents who spent the holiday period, night after night, trying to comfort concerned pets. Or tried — and failed — to get to sleep because they had to go to work the next morning.
Fireworks use is like owning a car: Those who use them have an obligation to be responsible, in order to keep everyone safe and to show proper respect to others. In the fashion of our area’s incorrigible red-light runners, too many Omaha-area residents are abusing the privilege of fireworks use.
One measure of that irresponsible behavior is the 30% increase in fireworks-related complaints registered with Omaha police this June and July. The total was 1,882.
Injuries, sometimes quite serious, from improper fireworks use is an especially lamentable result every July 4 holiday season. This year, Omaha-area hospitals reported about 60 such injuries.
Is it really worth it to suffer a terrible injury to one’s hand, or to put a child at risk, through casual, improper use of these explosive devices? The answer is obvious.
In Omaha, the city rightly requires that an individual be at least 16 years old to discharge fireworks. Minors aged 12 to 15 can use fireworks only if supervised by an adult 19 or older. The State Fire Marshal’s Office offers sound advice: Keep children away from fireworks. Do not alter fireworks in any way. Light fireworks one at a time, on the ground, in a fire-resistant area.
Fireworks are popular, no question, but local officials must protect the public interest by setting proper regulations. A key needed improvement: Suburban municipalities must follow Omaha’s example and set sensible limits on the number of days for purchases and use.
Not least, fireworks users have an important duty this week — get out in your neighborhood and clean up the mess you’ve made.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!