Once a year, the National Mall is home to a peculiar event right before the Fourth of July.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) demonstrates the dangers of fireworks by blowing up watermelons and setting off bottle rockets into the eyes and extremities of innocent mannequins. Such a sight tends to draw a crowd.
Held every year right before the massive fireworks show in Washington, the effort is intended to scare Americans into practicing caution when using fireworks on Independence Day. Because, well, we don’t exactly have the best track record.
“The injuries in particular (last year) were around 12,000, which is the highest in 15 years, and we’re still seeing about a dozen deaths every year,” CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said Thursday before the demo.
What goes into such a strange event?
“CPSC staff is responsible for every aspect of the demonstration,” said Kim Dulic, a spokeswoman for the CPSC. All of the demos are based on reported accidents and CPSC engineers are trained to conduct the demos.
Watermelons are blown up to show how forceful the devices can be — and the mannequins, well, you get the idea.
But where do the mannequins come from?
According to Dulic, the CPSC usually gets them through stores going out of business or through the Internet. And after the demonstration, their mangled forms are left to the hands of trusty … interns.
Yep, CPSC interns are tasked with trying to repair the unfortunate dummies.
The interns “repaint them and replace the arms that have been blown off,” Dulic said.
If they are irreparable, the mannequins are thrown out.
So, if you’re going to use fireworks this holiday — and don’t want to end up like a safety-test mannequin — the CPSC implores you to abide by three basic safety tips.
First, keep your kid away from sparklers. Second, keep a source of water nearby in case you need to douse something. And third, if at first it doesn’t light, don’t try it again.
This year’s demonstration was a success, leaving viewers with a heightened sense of caution going into the holiday weekend, and maybe with a craving for watermelon.
As for the mannequins, we hope they live to see another year.