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Officials urge caution with New Years Eve fireworks, drinking in Forsyth County

Safety tips

Here are some tips from Forsyth County Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers to help ensure fireworks fun stays safe:

* Always read labels for warnings and instructions.

* Always use fireworks outdoors.

* Never attempt to shoot fireworks indoors or from a covered patio, garage, etc.

* Always have adults present and responsible for lighting fireworks.

* Only light one firework at a time.

* The person lighting the fireworks should always wear eye protection and should never stand over the device that is being lit. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting the fuse.

* Never throw or point a firework at other people.

* Never shoot off a firework in a glass bottle.

* Ensure other people are out of range of where shooting fireworks.

* Do not relight a firework that misfired or was not fully functional. Wait at least 20 minutes, then soak it in a bucket of water

* Do not use fireworks that were possibly produced illegally or homemade.

FORSYTH COUNTY — Whether the plans involve staying at home and ringing in the new year with fireworks or heading to a party, law enforcement and emergency personnel in Forsyth County are urging safe celebrations so 2016 does not begin with tragedy.

New Year’s Eve is widely known as a heavier-than-normal drinking and partying night. With that come extra patrols and possible traffic checkpoints, according to Epifanio Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

“I can tell you from working nights for 10 years, New Year’s Eve is extremely hit or miss,” he said. “On some years, there’s nothing going on, and on some years it’s just nonstop.”

To avoid becoming a holiday statistic — or worse, injuring yourself or others — Rodriguez said the answer is simple. Do not drink and drive.

There are many ways to stay safe: Uber, a taxi service, a tow truck company that offers free rides, ensuring there is a designated driver for every vehicle, sleeping at the house where you drink, etc.

Impaired driving is not the only danger people may experience this Thursday night.

This is the first New Year’s Eve in Georgia since off-the-ground fireworks became legal as a result of a change to state law.

According to House Bill 110, fireworks can be used any day between 10 a.m. and midnight and until 2 a.m. on Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and July 3-4.

Local governing authorities or municipalities cannot alter this state law.

Though the holiday is joyous, every person involved in a fireworks celebration should be aware of their surroundings, said Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers.

“They’re not toys. They’re not intended to be a game, and they can cause serious bodily harm, burns, blindness or death,” Shivers said. “So they need to be respected as a tool to enjoy, but used in a very cautious manner.”

Even sparklers can cause damage.

“They can burn at temperature exceeding 2,000 degrees. They’re small but dangerous, so use them with the same respect and attention that traditional aerial fireworks are used with,” he said. “They should be used only around adults, and most definitely should be kept away from hair and clothing.”

Holiday celebrations can be a stressful time for pets, who do not understand the cause or reason for the loud noises and lights.

“Always keep pets indoors with a safe, secure place to hide,” he said.

Shivers suggested playing ambient noise, like a radio or TV, to provide a distraction from fireworks.

“If they will be outside, make sure they are micro-chipped and that the information is up to date with all of your information, because they do have a tendency to panic and run away,” he said. “Resist the urge to take entire families, pets included, to professional displays. Don’t take pets.”

As with any dangerous or emergency situation, he said, call 911 in a questionable circumstance.

“If there is an injury or you think a home has been damaged from something landing on or near it, or in brush nearby a structure, let the fire department come out and make sure everything’s OK,” he said.