The Two-Way

Government Blows Up Mannequins In Annual Plea For Fireworks Safety


A mannequin suffers the consequence of very poor fireworks-igniting decisions.
U.S. CPSC/Screenshot by NPR
A mannequin suffers the consequence of very poor fireworks-igniting decisions.

Independence Day is dedicated to patriotism, but celebrated with beer and explosives. So it might not be a shock that every Fourth of July, America sees a massive spike in fireworks injuries — especially among children and young men.

And every year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission engages in a noble, quixotic quest to persuade Americans to set off explosives more responsibly. CPSC does that by blowing up mannequins on the National Mall.

The demonstration emphasizes that fireworks are dangerous. Seriously dangerous. Blast-your-hand-off dangerous. Bottle-rocket-in-the-eye dangerous. Where'd-that-mannequin's-head-go dangerous.

The point, of course, is not that fireworks should be forbidden. The CPSC is striving to suggest that if you're using fireworks, you should try to be smart and safe — and not emulate the dummies on the Mall.

Acting chair of the CPSC Ann Marie Buerkle kicked off this year's demonstration, reminding Americans to keep a bucket of water or a hose handy any time they want to use fireworks.

And never, ever let children set off an explosion, she said.

Her other key points might seem self-evident, but get even-more-evident with an assist from an exploding mannequin. They include (we're paraphrasing):

Support comes from

  • Don't point fireworks toward other people.
  • If a firework fails to go off, don't try to relight it. And definitely don't crawl over for a closer look at what's wrong.
  • Don't try to make your own fireworks.
  • Professional fireworks are very powerful, which makes them very dangerous, which means they can very much kill you.

"Leave the professional fireworks to the professionals," Buerkle said, noting that they are illegal for consumers to use.

And, of course, the CPSC notes that you should follow local laws about where consumer-grade fireworks are permitted.

Fireworks will be off-limits in more places than usual this year, reports NPR's Howard Berkes: Federal fire managers have banned fireworks on public lands, citing a worse-than-usual wildfire season.

"The wildfire season doesn't usually kick into high gear until July," he says. "But the month began with 8,000 firefighters already deployed, close to 30,000 wildfires reported, and more than 2.7 million acres scorched."

Does watching dummy-demolition make you long for more fireworks videos? Check out two new videos from Skunk Bear — NPR's science video series — about how exactly fireworks, well, work.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.

More Stories