Juneau needs a fireworks policy and designated area(s) for the public to go and safely set off their fireworks during the holidays.
Fireworks are hazardous explosive devices; the noise is hazardous and so is the fallout. Users of fireworks have little control over where a firework goes and the average decibel level of a firework is 145 dB. This level of noise is hazardous, and people should be given ample warning before being exposed to it so they can protect themselves, their family and pets.
We also have people in our community with serious medical problems aggravated by loud explosive noise, ranging from PTSD to various heart conditions. In addition, there are families with members and pets who are being traumatized by the loud explosions, so this makes enjoyment of these holidays very difficult for them. No one should be forced to endure hours of random blasts from fireworks next to their homes, but this is happening in Juneau.
National guidelines state that fireworks should not be used in residential areas near people, children, pets or homes, because when fireworks are set off in our residential districts, it is too hard for people to get far enough away not to be impacted by them. There are many public safety and health professionals that warn against the public using any type of firework; rather, they encourage families to attend public fireworks displays instead.
Our community designates areas for hazardous activities all the time. We do this for safety reasons and out of consideration for others. Think of the gun range, or dog-free trails or smoking areas. Most other communities in Alaska have developed their own fireworks policy to meet the needs of their residents, but Juneau has not. Unfortunately, some of our city officials, including five Assembly members, have actually blocked attempts made by the public to create a fireworks policy for our town over the last few years.
The bottom line is the public has a right to know when and where fireworks will be used so that they can avoid them as needed. The public also has a right to know what risks fireworks actually do pose to their family. It is also the public’s right to be part of the policy making process when it impacts their lives. This did not happen when CBJ decided on their own, without providing any notice or opportunity for the public to give input, to lift our town’s long-standing ban on private firework displays. Regardless of your stance on this particular issue, we should all do what we can to protect our right to give input on public policy decisions that impact our lives. If we don’t, we will lose that right.
As a community, we should also do what we can to make sure that everyone has a chance to participate and enjoy the holidays. My hope is that people will choose to refrain from setting off their fireworks in residential areas this July 4, and instead contact CBJ and members of the Assembly to let them know that you want to see a fireworks policy and designated area(s) for fireworks in Juneau. It is the right thing to do for our community.
• Lorraine Murray is a Juneau resident.