VALDOSTA – They may generate plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs,” but the dangers of fireworks far outweigh their beauty. “People always want to know what’s the best way to use fireworks,” said Dr. Fred Mullins, president of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc. “The best way is to leave them in the hands of professionals.” Each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are thousands of people burned by fireworks, especially during the weeks preceding and following July 4. If you plan to use fireworks at your home, there are a few precautions that should reduce the risks:• Create a “blast zone” that is away from structures, people, dry grass and other flammable items• Designate someone as the safety person, someone else as the shooter and someone else as the cleanup crew• Make sure someone is in charge of keeping children away from the “blast zone”• Ensure a fire extinguisher, hose or bucket of water is nearby• Make sure the “shooter” is not wearing loose clothing that could ignite and follows all directions on the fireworks labelStatistics show that most fireworks burns are caused by devices permitted by law, including hand-held sparklers. “In the hands of children, sparklers can be very dangerous,” said Dr. Mullins. “Remember that once a sparkler goes out, it is still a piece of extremely hot metal.” Other fireworks tips include:• If the device does not have a warning and/or instructions label, do not fire it.• Never use fireworks of any kind indoors.• Light fireworks one at a time.• Never throw fireworks. A malfunctioning fuse could cause the item to go off in your hand.• Never light fireworks held in someone’s hand.• Never stand over an item that does not fire.Just as fireworks are a traditional part of the Independence Day celebration, so are family gatherings and cookouts. But a hot grill can be more dangerous than a lit firework, according to Dr. Mullins.“We see burns each year from someone who has touched a hot grill or experienced an explosion with their gas grill,” he said. “You can’t be too careful with a grill, especially when setting up or lighting one.” First, there are general tips for all grills:• Never use barbecue grills indoors.• Keep grills at least 10 feet away from buildings or bushes.• Never start a grill with the lid closed, as trapped gas or fumes could cause an explosion.• Use utensils with long handles to stay clear of the fire.• Utility/Barbeque lighters are not safe for children and should not be left outdoors where the elements may weaken or damage the plastic.• Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when operating a grill.For charcoal grills, make sure they are on a level, stable surface. Use lighter fluid sparingly, and store the lighter fluid container far away from the grill. Never use gasoline to start a grill. When you are finished grilling, dispose of hot coals properly by dousing them with water and stirring the ashes. For gas grills, check gas lines to make sure they are not clogged, and replace any nicked or scratched connectors before cooking. Always shut off the propane tank valve when not in use. Never use a match to check for leaks. Keep gas hoses as far away from grease and hot surfaces as possible. Residents of South Georgia and North Florida have the opportunity to receive specialized burn care at the JMS Outpatient Burn Clinic at SGMC’s Smith Northview Campus in Valdosta, Georgia. For more information about Independence Day safety tips or Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., contact SGMC Community Relations at 229-259-4420.