UT Consultants Help Craft New Fireworks Law

KNOXVILLE –- With the Fourth of July just past, University of Tennessee experts have been working to ensure fireworks are safely sold and shot.

Ray Crouch, fire management consultant, and Dennis Huffer, legal consultant, both with UT’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS), helped craft a new state law requiring businesses that put on large-scale fireworks displays be trained and licensed.

Senate Bill 2627, sponsored by state Sen. Tim Burchett, and House Bill 2919, sponsored by state Rep. Curry Todd, requires indoor and outdoor fireworks, pyrotechnic or flame effects exhibitors to be licensed and certified to conduct such displays. The bill was signed by Gov. Phil Bredesen on June 2 and takes effect May 1, 2007.

“The bills create an additional level of protection for the public when attending indoor and outdoor fireworks displays put on by professionals,” Crouch said, adding that Tennessee was one of only 14 states with no regulations governing public fireworks exhibitors.

Under the new state law, the exhibitor must get a license by submitting an application to the state fire marshal, along with evidence of at least $1 million of liability insurance coverage. The exhibitor must pay $1,000 to obtain the self-funded license.

Operators — those who shoot the fireworks at public displays — must gain certification before conducting them. They must pass a written exam that is approved by the state fire marshal, be at least 21 years old, submit favorable letters of reference, and provide evidence of their work under competent supervision on previous fireworks displays. Exhibitors must have a certified operator on-site at all times during public events.

The new legislation applies only to exhibitors of Class B fireworks, Crouch said. It does not regulate individuals who use Class C fireworks for personal use.

“It’s imperative that you have your facts and figures straight as it relates to ensuring that the legislation will do what it’s intended to do,” Burchett said. “With MTAS’ help we, as legislators, were well informed on all the issues. This bill, once enacted, will help to save lives in Tennessee.”

In helping to craft the legislation, the UT consultants collaborated with state legislators, as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the state fire marshal’s office, and private fireworks distributors and exhibitors to help formulate the law.
UT also offers other assistance to help keep fireworks safe.

Crouch and MTAS Fire Management Consultant Gary West advise cities that want to adopt ordinances to allow the sale of fireworks. Such ordinances establish the proximity of fireworks retailers to other buildings or combustibles, among other restrictions.

Kevin Lauer, fire management consultant with UT’s County Technical Assistance Service, advises county governments on similar issues relating to public safety.


Contacts:

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
Queena Jones, (865) 974-1533, queena.jones@tennessee.edu