SPD Chief offers July 4 safety tips

Somerset Police Chief William Hunt

It's important to have fun on the Fourth of July -- but for it to stay fun, you need to keep safe and be respectful.

Chief William Hunt of Somerset police talked to the Commonwealth Journal about how to responsibly handle consumer fireworks this Independence Day.

One common problem reported is fireworks going off late at night when people are sleeping or much earlier than July 4, when they might be expected. Hunt said that the city ordinance on the matter does not specify a time at which fireworks can or can't be set off, but considers noise nuisances a matter of reasonable discretion.

He said officers look at the time frame and how close the calendar is to the holiday in deciding how to handle complaints.

"If we were a month out, it might be less expected to be setting off fireworks all night," he said. "We take it into consideration that it doesn't get dark until 9 p.m. Most of the time it's okay to give (fireworks fans) until about 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. Then if we get complaints, we address the complaints."

However, the rules regarding when fireworks can be set off "are not written in stone anywhere."

Safety in handling fireworks in important too. Hunt advised people to bare careful with their youngsters.

"Obviously, parental supervision is (important)," he said. "Parents need to make sure they are monitoring their children and assisting them with fireworks."

Also, "most (fireworks) have warning on the label, almost every one of them. Follow the warnings on the label."

Hunt added that people should "think about where the fireworks are projected" and where they might be landing -- that includes watching out for power lines, trees, and other properties.

"Be a good neighbor," he said."Be mindful of launching things that might land in your neighbor's yard."

Other safety tips include backing away from the explosive device after lighting it, using water to douse fireworks before throwing them away, having safety equipment handy in case of a fire, don't pick up or light a device again that has not fully ignited, and do not point fireworks in the direction of another person.

As with most holidays, safe driving is also a concern. Hunt said officers will be keeping an eye out for drunk drivers, though he doesn't expect it to be any worse than normal over the holiday, and advises anyone who suspects a driver they see of being intoxicate to call 911 so police can locate them.