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Fireworks etiquette

June is winding down. Before we know it the Fourth of July holiday will be upon us, and that means fireworks. Lots and lots of fireworks. It’s a tradition, after all.

But it isn’t a tradition everyone embraces.

Those with dogs, for instance, often complain about the noise and the impact it can have on their pooches who – depending on individual temperament – may bark, become nervous or aggressive, hide, or any combination of the above.

No one wants to upset anyone’s pup, but it isn’t just dogs who can have a hard time with fireworks, their noise, and the flashing lights.

Those who have served in the Armed Services, and live with various levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sometimes also have a hard time with fireworks.

But it isn’t the big community wide displays that bother these folks as much.

Dogs may still have a hard time with those, but people who know what to expect and when to expect it can generally cope with the noise and flashing lights of a fireworks display. If they know they are going to have problems despite expecting what is to come, they can take steps to remove themselves from areas with community displays.

No, the real problem, especially for those who might have combat related traumatic experiences, is with the unplanned and unscheduled pops and bangs of impromptu displays, especially in the days leading up to and following the holiday itself.

Those who dislike fireworks can prepare for the holiday itself. But preparing for these smaller, spontaneous displays surrounding the holiday can be problematic.

No one wants to upset our veterans – especially around a holiday that celebrates the very freedoms they’ve fought to help safeguard and guarantee. But we also want to allow our kids to have fun and enjoy the traditions and experiences of the holiday. Sometimes that means letting them set off fireworks.

So how do we reconcile these two, apparently conflicting, scenarios?

One way is to be a good neighbor, and ask those living near you if they are okay with you letting off fireworks. If they specifically tell you they will be traumatized by fireworks displays, you might consider taking your fireworks elsewhere. Perhaps a cookout at a friends or relatives house who lives further from other people is a better location for fireworks.

Another option is to ask if there is a good time to let the fireworks off, and to adhere to that schedule.

Even if your neighbor doesn’t have a period of time when they are planning to be away from their home over the holiday, talking with them and letting them know to expect fireworks between certain hours on certain days can allow them to mentally prepare for impending noises and flashes in the same way they can with public fireworks displays.

If you are a veteran, don’t be afraid or ashamed to let neighbors know that the commotion of fireworks can be hard for you to deal with. An honest and open dialogue beforehand can help stop a misunderstanding before it occurs and has a chance to escalate.

In fact, the Veteran’s Administration advises veterans to “avoid avoidance,” and instead to confront their triggers in a safe manner. Neighbors can actually help with this by having that communication with veterans in their neighborhood and allowing them to know when to expect noise or even inviting them to be a part of their event.

If you know a veteran and you suspect they are experiencing a PTSD triggered episode you can help keep them grounded by being an anchor to remind them these are the noises of a celebration, not a combat zone. You can also offer them ice packs, cold drinks, or bottled water they can splash in their face. The VA says actions like this, that lower the body temperature, can also help keep veterans grounded.

And if a veteran tells you that it’s all too much for them, and they aren’t ready to accommodate or work through the issue immediately, respect that. They are the ones who made sacrifices to guarantee the freedoms we celebrate, after all. If we can’t make a small sacrifice for them if they ask, do we even deserve to celebrate the day?



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