Selling fireworks poses hazards for people, property, and your ministry
Summer is an ideal time for churches to focus on fundraising. Sunny days are perfect for neighborhood carnivals, car washes, and rummage sales. However, one popular fundraiser may be too hot to handle—fireworks.
While consumer fireworks of varying classifications are legal in many states, they can be hazardous to users, bystanders, and property. Using fireworks as a fundraising option may be profitable, but ministries should also consider the dangers associated with their sale:
Fireworks are inherently dangerous. There is no such thing as safe fireworks. Sparklers, snakes, fountains, and ground spinners cause more injuries than illegal fireworks. Sparklers account for a quarter of all injuries, including trauma to the eyes, face, and hands.
Injury statistics tell the story. Selling fireworks is a much riskier venture than a bake sale, walk-a-thon, or auction. Fireworks lead to more than 10,000 injuries and an estimated 18,750 fires each year in the U.S.—some of them fatal.
Children and teenagers are most vulnerable. The under-20 age group accounts for nearly half of all fireworks-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms.
There’s an increased exposure to lawsuits. Liability issues abound. If a fireworks explosion damages another person’s property or injures bystanders, the ministry could be sued.
Volunteers and property are at risk. One spark could trigger an explosion. Thieves trying to steal fireworks can damage property and put volunteers at risk.
Insurance options may be limited. Fireworks sales are considered hazardous activities. Your insurance company may offer low-limit liability protection or additional coverage for an extra premium charge.
Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario
If you decided to sell legal fireworks as a fundraiser this year, take steps to help protect your ministry from liability:
Learn what can go wrong. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues a report each year that details fireworks-related injuries and deaths. The information presented may be helpful when developing your safety and security plans.
Tell your insurance agent. Make sure you have the right coverage for this risk. Your agent can also provide important safety tips.
Know your local laws. State laws vary widely, so know what you can sell, where you can sell, and familiarize your volunteers with any age restrictions for buyers.
Do your homework on the fireworks vendor. Vetting the fireworks vendor is crucial. When interviewing a vendor, ask for references. Have a local attorney review the contract before you sign—the contract should indemnify your organization in the event of a lawsuit regarding manufacturing defects.
Develop worst-case scenario plans. The same basic steps used to develop safety plans for a severe weather event or a building fire can be used to help protect your ministry while hosting a fireworks fundraiser. Identify “What if?” scenarios, and develop plans for each assessment. See the article Create an Emergency Response Plan for tips on how to get started.
Call in the professionals. Look for EMTs and fire personnel within your ministry when recruiting volunteers. Alert your local fire department to when the fundraiser will take place, and ask for best-practice safety tips. If the event spans several days, ask your local police department to patrol the area overnight.
Safeguard your people. Post signs warning against open flames, including cigarettes and lighters. Inspect the area where volunteers will be working for safety hazards. Choose an open, well-traveled area for the display tables, and place buckets of water and fire extinguishers near the point of sale. Set minimum age requirements for those handling fireworks.
Fundraising vs. Safety: Weigh the Risk Carefully
Selling fireworks as a fundraising option presents substantial risks. Understanding the risks can help your ministry make an informed choice about holding a fireworks fundraiser. To learn more about fireworks safety, visit the CPSC’s Fireworks Information Center.
Statistics provided by:
Fireworks, by the National Fire Protection Association Fire Analysis and Research Division. Posted June 2013.