KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
December 28, 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
For many Katy residents, ringing in the New Year means setting off fireworks. Planning this part of the holiday celebration requires understanding the local laws, observing safe practices and overall etiquette before enjoying the bright lights and loud pops.
The first step to fireworks education is understanding the laws of your county. Katy is part of Harris, Fort Bend, and Waller counties. Some neighborhoods are located in both the City of Katy proper and unincorporated areas.
Understand Your Area’s Laws
City of Katy - Fireworks are strictly forbidden inside the City of Katy limits.
Unincorporated County Areas - Fireworks are legal in unincorporated county areas in Harris, Fort Bend, and Waller (outside of Katy proper) unless there is a fire ban and as long as the fireworks used are legal and set off in a safe place.
Legal vs. Illegal Fireworks
So what is a "legal firework?" Most fireworks purchased from certified and licensed fireworks stands are legal.
Residents are warned not to purchase fireworks from a vendor selling fireworks out of a back of a pickup truck or on the side of road "Please use common sense," explains Lieutenant Simon VanDyk of Harris County Emergency Services. "If your fireworks have an extra boom from others then something may not be right."
Firework Safety Tips
1. Open Area and Distance - Set off fireworks in an open area, not up against a house. Fireworks can not be set off within 600 feet of a school (even if it's not in session,) church, hospital or gas station.
2. Read the Instructions - Ask questions when purchasing your fireworks.
"My family loves those ladybug fireworks. They spin and then shoot up in the air," says VanDyk. "If someone failed to read the instructions they could easily get themselves and others in trouble for being too close when they shoot up."
3. Not for Children - Fireworks should only be handled by adults.
4. Impaired Judgment - Be responsible and let those adults not drinking light the fireworks.
"Lighting fireworks is no different than having a designated driver. Alcohol will slow your reaction time and that time could result in injury when lighting fireworks," says VanDyk.
5. Water source - ALWAYS have a water source nearby and douse everything before throwing it out.
"We will have a number of garage fires because people tossed something in the trash," says VanDyk. "In most cases these are responsible people who truly believed they had put out any fire but it only takes one little simmering ember to ignite a fire. It's not out until you've doused it." Pour water on old fireworks or even soak them in a bucket of water overnight.
"A fire can start up to 12 hours after you believe it is out," cautions VanDyk.
Don't Forget Your Pets
Many pets go missing during New Year's Eve because the noise and lights can be terrifying, so they run and hide.
Pet experts recommend bringing outside pets indoors and even putting them in an interior room to help minimize the sound and prevent them going through a window. Tips to keep pets safe:
Keep pets inside
Keeps pets in interior rooms away from windows
Verify they have proper identification (tags and microchips)
While some neighborhoods request the ceasing of fireworks after midnight, residents should know not to shoot off fireworks during odd hours that could upset families.
"I love fireworks. What frustrates me is that some people are disrespectful for when and where they shoot them," says Katy resident Jennifer Lynn. "Last year, fireworks started going off in my neighborhood at 12:30 am on Christmas Eve until 2 am. In a neighborhood, people know kids are sleeping because Santa is coming the next morning. A little courtesy would go a long way with those that have a problem with them."
If you do plan to shoot off fireworks let your neighbors know your intentions so they can prepare children and pets for the noise. Remember it's important to be safe, courteous, and considerate to your Katy neighbors.