Author Archives: Tom Dalton

The Sign Shoppe, Episode 1 (Pilot)

The Sign Shoppe

 

Another accident occurs at the Sign Shoppe when cutting substrate for a client. The boss promises Ray he’ll find a better way. He calls a trusted source for Sign Shops, and learns about a Fletcher substrate cutter – faster, more accurate, and much safer. Watch the episode now!

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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Substrate Cutters Save Time & Money for Sign Shops

Substrate Cutter
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Paintings have a canvas. Signs have a substrate. Top-notch sign shops need to be able to safely and efficiently cut through the substrate to cut their signs down to size. To make professional-looking signs, the substrate needs to be cut straight with perfect 90-degree angles. A substrate cutter is the right tool for this job. Substrate cutters also improve efficiency for sign shops by cutting time and saving material lost to bad cuts. Before examining the substrate cutter, take a look at this brief definition of substrates.

What is substrate

A substrate, in terms of printing and sign making, is the base on which graphics are printed. For signs, substrate materials might consist of corrugated plastic, foam board, aluminum sheets and aluminum composites. In general, the thickness of these substrates is limited by the ability of available tools to cut through them.

When it comes to thicknesses, the Fletcher Substrate Cutter can handle aluminum sheeting up to .063″ in thickness with the correct cutting head attached. For this particular substrate cutter, there are heads with blades that can also cut aluminum composites up to 4 mm thick. When it comes to foam board and corrugated plastic, 13 mm is the practical limit for the thickness of those materials, and the Fletcher Substrate Cutter has a specific head for those jobs.

What is a substrate cutter

When creating a sign, the straightness of the edges is important. Quality substrate cutters like the Fletcher will include features like laser sites for setting up the edge along the cutting arm. A substrate cutter resembles an easel, with a beam running vertically along which the blade runs and a beam running horizontal where the substrate sits. Substrates get clamped into the cutter, which prevents movements during cutting. Vertical sliding bladehead make cutting at perfect angles easy. Unlike a panel saw, a good substrate cutters, such as the Fletcher Substrate Cutter, can also cut through a substrate without leaving any debris behind.

For the different substrate materials, there are different interchangeable heads that go on the vertical beam. Cutting metal substrates requires a specific metal-cutting head, while a job cutting foam board and corrugated plastic would require a Fletcher head with a utility knife blade.

How do substrate cutters save time and money

With a substrate cutter, sign shops can be prepared for most any job. Rather than hunting for tools, and figuring out how to cut a substrate, a substrate cutter makes every job easy to set up and complete. This sort of efficiency saves time and money and therefore the equipment quickly pays for itself.

No sense in making measurements and drawing lines, only to hope everything goes OK. After discovering the efficiency a Fletcher brings to your shop, it will quickly become an indispensable tool in your shop. The Fletcher Substrate Cutter can be mounted to the wall, or left free standing. They not only cut down on waste by all but eliminating mistakes, they also provide a much safer method of cutting sign materials.  As a tool specifically designed for the job of cutting substrates, it does so in a way that pretty much makes it impossible for you to cut yourself while cutting substrate. Substrate cutters are simply the fastest, easiest and safest way to cut

How will a substrate cutter enhance your reputation for quality signs?

What better way for a sign shop to build a stronger reputation than by creating signs with perfect edges? There’s something to be said for using the right tool for the job, and when it comes to making signs, a substrate cutter is an essential tool. With a substrate cutter, the margin of error is greatly reduced. A professional sign shop needs professional tools, and a substrate cutter ensures that a professional job gets done every time.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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The Four Types of Wayfinding Signage

Wayfinding Signage
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Whether a university is being built or a street fair is springing up, wayfinding signage is one of the keys to a great visitor experience. A university might be more interested in permanent signage solutions, while the street fair’s wayfinding is created from DIY A-frame signs. The basic guiding principles behind the design and placement of those signs should be the same. Signs deliver information, and in wayfinding signage, only a handful of different types of signs are necessary to deliver information. Knowing what those types of signs are is an integral part to creating a useful system of wayfinding signage. So what are the four types of signs? Ernest Dwight (2008) makes the most sense when he lists these four:

wayfinding-signage-3

  • Identification
  • Directional
  • Informational
  • Regulatory

Defining these four types of signs is simple, as is knowing how to use them. When designing the system, remember, the simpler the wayfinding signage system is made, the better for all involved; from the designers of the wayfinding signage system, to the visitors using it to get around. The idea behind designing signs is to convey as much information as necessary in as little space possible. That’s why it helps to think of signs in these four different categories. So what are these types of signs and how should they get used?

Identification signs

On August 25, 1916, Congress created the National Park Service. Aside from their natural beauty and the effort that goes into preserving it, National Parks are also well-known for their entrance signs. These entrance signs are a perfect example of what identification signs are all about. They identify the park. Inside the park, identification signs point out specific park features and areas. Identification signs can take the form of words labeling the location, or they can display icons, such as a tent signifying that the location is a campsite. Identification signs serve visitors best if they are easy to understand. They shouldn’t point the way to a location, an identification sign symbolizes arrival at the location. For pointing the way, there are directional signs.

Directional signs

When it comes to pointing the way, the directional or wayfinding signs are the sign for the job. When using directional signage, the best rule to follow is to keeping it simple. When planning a wayfinding system, try to plan it as early in the overall planning stage as possible. Unfortunately, wayfinding plans often get left to the end, and don’t receive the attention they deserve. Directional signs don’t appear at the location, they appear around the location and on the way to the location. Directional signs need to be hidden in plain sight. They should appear at junctions, or anywhere a person on a way to a location might look to see which way to get to that location. Directional signs are also what turn a group of many individuals into a singular crowd. Airports, for instance, aren’t made for standing around; they’re made for transit. Directional signs keep people moving where they shouldn’t be standing still. So someone follows the directional signs until they find the identification sign. When they find that, they’ll need an informational sign to know a little more.

Informational signs

What are the hours of operation? Is public Wi-Fi available? Did the Marquis de Lafayette say this bust of George Washington is the best likeness of him that he’s ever seen? All this and more can be supplied to visitors through informational signs. While informational signs can be found at locations marked by identification signs, they can also provide information about other things along the route. For instance, if an area is under construction, it’d be nice to give a little head’s up to anyone in sandals that the road might get a little rocky. If a way is temporarily closed, that’s also good to know ahead of time. While the informational signs are there to put people in the know, it’s the regulatory signs that tell them what they can and cannot do.

Regulatory signs

Some of the most important signs are regulatory signs. These signs tell people the regulations or requirements of the area. Is parking allowed? The sign says “no parking,” so no it isn’t. Speed limit signs, no parking signs and stop signs are all good examples of regulatory signs for traffic control, but signs that tell people they need to wear shirts and shoes may also be considered regulatory signs. Is smoking in the area not allowed? How will people know without a regulatory sign with a no smoking allowed symbol? Regulatory signs need to be clearly visible to warn of rules or regulations of which the disregard might constitute a violation of the law or regulate behavior in public places.

The messages on every type of sign listed above should be crystal clear, and as short as possible. Too many signs can be just as bad as too few. Aside from that, the rules are simple; directional signs point the way, identification signs announce the location, informational signs tell about the location, and regulatory signs set rules and regulations for the area.

References
Dwight, E. (2008). Signs of the Times. American School & University, 80(12), 38-40.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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30 Day Sign Design Workshop

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Day 1 Sign Design Tip

Readability is the #1 consideration. What good can a sign do if it can’t be read at a glance?  (click to tweet this)

 

 

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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30 Day Retail Sales Workshop

retail sales tips

Day 1 Retail Sales Tip

Our most important lesson: create a budget, know the detail of what you spend, watch cash flow, and control your inventory. (click to tweet this)

 

 

The Backstory (if you’re interested)

It was 2001 when I opened the doors of Signs Direct. Within a year, retailers dominated our client base. In fact, we sell all kinds of POS and sidewalk signage to help them improve sales. Over the years, I’ve seen, watched, or heard of practically everything someone could do to increase traffic and sales. Some of them worked, some worked really well, and most flat-out failed. I was talking to a customer the other day, and she thought it would be a good idea to share the best of the best retail sales tips I’ve learned. If you’re like me, with very little time, you’ll appreciate that the 30 tips I’m going to share are all Tweet-sized. That means less than 140 characters. I hope you enjoy – here’s to happy and prosperous retailing.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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Wayfinding Signage: 4 Questions You Need the Answers to

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Imagine what an airport would look like if there were no signs to direct people to where they need to go. There’d be chaos as travelers would be forced to explore the airport to find their gates based on landmarks and clues. As Stephen Zacks (2009) said, poor spatial flow combined with inadequate signage adds up to confused people. Fortunately there are signs in airports, as well as colleges, hospitals, and other public areas where crowds shuffle through corridors. However, there’s more to wayfinding signage than simply having signs to direct people. Robin Styles-Lopez (2003) said that “thinking ahead is crucial,” and the planning for wayfinding signage should be included at the start of any architectural project.

Wayfinding Signage

This article will address wayfinding signage by answering four questions. First, it will define wayfinding. Then it will cover types of signs and some standards that get used in a wayfinding scheme. Next, it will cover the proper use of wayfinding signage, and finally, this article will cover some ancillary benefits of a strong plan behind a wayfinding scheme.

What is wayfinding signage?

In essence, wayfinding is using signs to point direction. Styles-Lopez, and also Gillian Fuller (2002) said that wayfinding is processing spatial and environmental information to navigate an area. Fuller calls wayfinding “spatial problem solving,” (p. 234), and also said it reassures people in unfamiliar surroundings. She also said that in the case of airports, the sign commands a direction, not a condition of use; i.e., “go this way to Y” instead of “If you follow X path, you will reach Y.” According to Fuller, wayfinding signage collects the individual travelers in the airport and turns them into a crowd. Signs provide crowd control. Wayfinding signage acts as a heart pumping people in transit to their destination through the veins and arteries of public space.

What types of signs are used in wayfinding signage?

Ernest Dwight (2008) said there are four types of signs used in wayfinding signage. The first type is the identification sign; these signs mark an area and provide a name to a location. The next type of sign is the directional sign. Directional signs guide people to a location. Informational signs provide facts about an area or location, such as operating hours, or whether WiFi is available. Lastly, regulatory signs describe what is and isn’t allowed in a particular area. To corroborate Dwight, Fuller cites “the Airport Passenger Terminal” (Hart, 1985) as “professional literature,” and said it lists three types of wayfinding signs, which are directional, identifying and informational.

Four types of signs

  • Identification
  • Directional
  • Informational
  • Regulatory

Paul Poblocki (2007) said that wayfinding signage further benefits from programmable electronic message boards. These message boards can be used to convey directional messages or informational messages as needed.

A note on ADA compliance

In 2010, new standards from the U.S. Department of Justice related to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) came into effect to standardize wayfinding signage for people with visual impairments. Prior to the 2010 standards, there were mandates for wayfinding signs to include Braille and raised tactile letters, but there was no standard for how they should be designed. Many signs, though compliant, were designed inadequately, and were hard for the visually impaired to read. The 2010 standards spelled out standards for how the Braille and raised tactile letters should appear on all compliant signs. The standards also suggest a minimum contrast of 70 percent regarding letters and their background. In simpler terms, signs should be dark on light or light on dark. Finally, the new ADA standards also prohibit glossy finishes on wayfinding signage.

How should wayfinding signage be used?

As Fuller said, airports rely on signage to direct people. They are to be “obeyed, not believed,” (p. 231). Dwight said that design consistency is important to produce the proper impression of authority in the signs. Poblocki had a few suggestions, including using rounded corners on signs with protruding corners, to keep public safety in mind. He also suggested working with one sign provider, to best obtain design consistency. Both Dwight and Poblocki suggest that too many signs are just as bad as too few, and that a principle of “keep it simple” should be followed. Signs should blend with the surrounding architecture, and to paraphrase Poblocki, wayfinding signage ought to be hidden in plain sight. No one should ever have to look for a sign. As Dwight said, they should always appear right where they’re needed. Furthermore, Zacks recommended “the Wayfinding Handbook” as a great resource for signage principles and design.

What are the benefits of good wayfinding signage?

Aside from preventing mass confusion and chaos, implementing a new system for wayfinding signage is an opportunity to reinforce a brand, Dwight said. Through design consistency, important colors, mascots, emblems, and more can be displayed. Wayfinding signage can provide an areal identity. Moreover, Styles-Lopez said that one way to make a good first impression is to ensure people know their way around the area. If an airport lacked wayfinding signage, it certainly would leave a lasting first impression, but it probably wouldn’t be a good one.

References

Dwight, E. (2008). Signs of the Times. American School & University, 80(12), 38-40.
Fuller, G. (2002). The Arrow–Directional Semiotics: Wayfinding in Transit. Social Semiotics, 12(3), 231.
Humrickhouse, L. (2012). New ADA Rules Take Effect. American Libraries, 43(5/6), 24-25.
Poblocki, P. (2007). Signage/Wayfinding. American School & University, 80(1), 18.
Styles-Lopez, R. L. (2003). FINDING YOUR WAY. American School & University, 76(3), 304-306.
Zacks, S. (2009). way to go. Print, 63(3), 94.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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The Legality of Having a Car Towed

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Having a vehicle abandoned in a business parking lot can be a serious hassle. Not only is it an eyesore, but it is occupying valuable space that could be utilized by paying customers. There are numerous things that need to be taken into account before having a vehicle towed from a parking lot in order to ensure that you are doing so lawfully. Most cities and municipalities have their own laws regarding the towing of vehicles, which differ from city to city. Although most cities are fairly consistent with their signage regulations, there can be some subtle differences that call for the same situations to be handled differently in two cities.

car-towed

Understanding Signage Requirements

Before attempting to have a car towed it is important that you have an understanding of the signage requirements for your local community. There are several laws that are consistently seen in cities around the country. Some of the more common signage laws include:

  • Determine Necessity: While most places of business will require appropriate signage to tow cars from their property, it is not always necessary. For instance, owners of rental properties with four or less units are not always required to post notices in order to remove vehicles that block their driveway or parking area.
  • Posted at Entrance: Most cities require that businesses place their parking notices at all publicly-accessible vehicle entrances to a property. The sign should be visible, and easily seen upon entrance, without obstructions.
  • Sign Sizes: Not all municipalities have requirements regarding the size of parking signs, but some do. In example, The State of New Jersey recently passed a law that requires all parking signs posted at entrances to be 36 inch x 36 inch. Many cities have requirements that the sign be no smaller than 18 inch x 24 inch. Make sure signs are placed at the motorists eye-level so they are easily noticed.
  • Sign Maintenance: Most cities and municipalities have requirements that parking-related signs on private property be maintained in order to be visible. This means that signs can not have faded lettering, discoloration, and must be cleaned or replaced when vandalized. Most signs are made from weather-resistant materials, which should reduce maintenance costs in the long term.
  • Visibility: There are often visibility requirements for parking signs as well. Signs must be made from a reflective material that is visible at night, and have lettering large enough to read while driving. Most towns specify a minimum letter height for all lettering on no-parking signs
  • Statements: There are several features that parking signs must include to be considered legal in most municipalities. Your parking signs should include who the parking area is for. For instance, a sign that reads “Customer Parking Only” would meet this requirement. Additionally, towing signs need to include the name of the towing company, the telephone number of the company, and the address of the location in which the vehicle can be reclaimed from.

Public vs Private

While having a car on private property relocated is the common scenario, occasionally a business owner may need to relocate a vehicle parked on a public roadway if it is blocking the entrance to their business. In this situation, the business must work in conjunction with the police department to have the car towed and remove the obstruction.

Events

For businesses that are located in a heavily populated urban area – there are usually certain considerations that must be taken into account for large scale events. Many cities will have specific regulations for events including ensuring that parking signs have been posted in advance of the event (usually 24-48 hours), and also how quickly event-specific signage must be removed from the location. Every city has their own parking, towing and signage laws that are tailored specifically for large-scale events.

Almost all businesses have to deal with abandoned or illegally parked vehicles in their parking lots at some point. By looking ahead and making sure that the city’s regulations are explicitly followed, these situations can be dealt with more quickly. Although regulations differ from city to city, they are usually relatively similar in basic requirements.

Sources:

http://www.sandiego.gov/specialevents/pdf/NoParkingSignageandTowing.pdf

http://www.alphabetsigns.com/blog/sign-guidelines-towing-a-vehicle-from-your-private-property/

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/about/datafeeds.shtml#ParkingReg

http://www.myparkingsign.com/blog/distance-between-parking-signs/

http://ladot.lacity.org/WhatWeDo/Parking/index.htm

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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Fire safety – Everybody’s Responsible, Who Takes Charge?

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If there’s one thing to plan ahead for, it’s fire safety. However, while having proper fire precautions in place can save lives, having improper procedures can actually place lives at risk. A story by Colin Todd (2009) in the publication “Fire Safety Engineering” highlights the tendency in the United Kingdom to place the responsibility of fire safety procedures on management. In one example given by Todd, because the manager was responsible for knowing what to do in case of a fire, the first thing a kitchen employee did after discovering a fire in the fryer one morning was to seek out the manager. That was the first thing, not pull the fire alarm. The anecdote goes on to describe the employee going to the wrong floor first, before later finding the manager at the scene of the fire. However, the story didn’t end there, because that manager wanted to seek the advice of the safety manager. All told, it was over 20 minutes before the fire was finally being responded to by the local fire department.

fire-safety-escape

The lesson in the above story is that nothing can be considered obvious when it comes to fire safety. Businesses need to plan and they need to train and empower employees to act when an emergency arises. Furthermore, businesses need to provide proper guidance to their patrons to give them the appropriate information so they may act decisively and find safety should an emergency ever arise.

What sort of fire safety plans should businesses make?

When considering a fire safety plan, there are three bases to cover. The first base is the actual planning behind the procedures. The second is to make sure employees are aware of the plan, and able to act upon it, and the third is making sure the plan is obvious to customers who might be in the building, so they may act.

One major part of a fire safety plan is ensuring the fire department has the correct information for their fire preplan. According to Bob Galvin in Fire/EMS Product News, the fire department’s preplan should use symbols designed by the National Fire Protection Association, to ensure uniformity. The fire department uses these preplans en route to an emergency, and it provides information such as fire hydrant locations, as well as areas within the building of which to be cautious. This information can be crucial in saving property and lives, including the lives of the fire fighters summoned to battle the blaze.

As evidenced by the story about the kitchen employee seeking guidance from a manager when a fire broke out, it’s vital for employees to know what to do in case of a fire. Everyone who works for a business should be frequently reminded and their knowledge tested for evacuation routes, and locations of important tools such as fire extinguishers and manual fire alarms. Fires are emergencies that must be dealt with immediately, and the procedure should be set into motion by whoever discovers the emergency.

Fire safety plans must also include non-employees in the establishment. If a fire breaks out, a person should be able to locate an exit immediately. According to Lanny Burke (2008), “An establishment’s good name doesn’t always translate into good safety practices.” To illustrate that, Burke performed a 10-minute inspection on a Las Vegas Strip-located hotel, and found safety violations ranging from doors that weren’t exits not being marked “not an exit,” to exit signs directing people towards elevators – which wouldn’t be used in an emergency evacuation. As Burke says, “ambiguous exit instructions could easily result in deaths and serious injuries.”

Communicating emergency procedures to non-employees

For many businesses, there are plenty of times customers or patrons outnumber employees. This is one reason it’s important for employees to know what to do. A business doesn’t want its own employees contributing to the chaos of an emergency. Best-case scenario, an employee would be able to direct customers to safety, and prevent a panic.

Since few companies can realistically go over safety procedures with each customer, the next best thing is to direct them with clear messaging on signs. Directions on signs should be easy to understand, ideally, without needing to be read in any particular language. Also, signs should be mounted to walls in a sturdy manner, to preserve the message’s permanence.

When posting emergency signs, sign brackets need to securely attach the sign to the wall at a level where it can be easily seen and read by everyone. Sign brackets that affix signs to walls are preferable to sign stands, which can be moved or manipulated for a variety of reasons, which might render their messages unheeded and unseen when it was most needed.

Moreover, fire safety sign messages need to be as strong as the sign brackets to which they’re affixed. Signs should spell out evacuation routes and hazards. An exit sign should highlight an emergency exit only. In case of emergency, signs and procedures only get one shot to prove their usefulness. This is why exit signs need to meet the requirements of the NFPA, as well as any other local requirements. Also, don’t forget the batteries. Like a smoke detector in your house, an exit sign won’t work if power is interrupted, and the backup batteries are dead. Always be sure to check the batteries in periodic inspections. In a fire, there are many points of failure. Make sure that unclear directions or an untrained staff are not one of them.

References:

Berke, L. Where there’s smoke… there should have been a safety review. (2008). Machine Design, 80(18), 42.
Galvin, B. (2004). Symbolic Meaning. Fire Chief, 481-3.
Todd, C. (2009). FORGIVING THE MANAGEMENT. Fire Safety Engineering, 16(8), 16-18.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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Whizz, Bang & Risk vs. Reward: Are Consumer Fireworks Worth It?

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Fireworks are everywhere. Next to red, white and blue, they symbolize Independence Day in the United States. Fireworks burst over New Year’s revelers. Fireworks are shot off at baseball games and soccer matches, at amusement parks, at concerts and parades. Fireworks are one of the highest forms of celebration, perhaps the greatest that can be performed publicly and in good taste. Fireworks are like dumping a bucket of Gatorade on the sky.

Unfortunately, there are a number of consumer fireworks available, through legal and illegal channels, and they frequently land in the hands of people who like loud noises and bright flashes better than they like to think about things. Fireworks safety is a real consideration, and in moments of excitement and celebration, it still deserves to be foremost in the mind of the person lighting the fuse. Fireworks safety is important for the simple fact that fireworks are dangerous.

Are fireworks really dangerous?

There are those that argue the safety record of fireworks relative to the safety record of many other typical objects is a testament to their general harmlessness. According to Laudan (1995), every year there are 12,000 injuries in the United States related to fireworks. Laudan then cites the 1993 estimates of product related injuries by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to put the fireworks number in perspective, and says fireworks opponents need to “lighten up.”

Laudan says those 12,000 injuries per year from fireworks are nothing compared to the 600,000 bicycle and 28,000 skateboard injuries per year. Even aquariums and pet supplies cause 32,000 injuries per year. In light of these figures, Laudan wonders what the fuss over fireworks safety is. He even says that other products are bigger threats to third parties than fireworks.

That may or may not be true. More people certainly are injured by bicycles than fireworks every year. But bicycles and fireworks are two different sorts of behavior. Bicycling, for instance, is an activity for exercise or commuting. Shooting off fireworks is an activity about colorful flashes and loud noises. A bicycle is controlled by the rider (until it’s not); fireworks are controlled by their special recipe determining an order of chemical reactions, as well as the good judgment of the person lighting the fuse (until it’s not). Bicycling serves a practical purpose; fireworks are a glorified use of fire.

The National Fire Protection Association promotes fireworks safety

It’s not necessary to explain all this. Looking at numbers published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) will puts the risk fireworks pose in light. Especially when the fact that injuries caused by fireworks are a result of explosions or fire. According to Hall (2013), who reported on the fire risk associated with consumer fireworks use for the NFPA, most injuries happen to people aged 15-24. The number two age group for fireworks injuries is kids under 10 years old.

Hall says that in 2011 there were 17,800 fires reported that were fireworks related. Of all fireworks-related fires, 1,200 were structure fires, 400 were burning vehicles, and most of the rest were outside and “other” fires. As a result of these fires, eight people died, 40 people were injured and there was $32 million in damaged property. Unsurprisingly, the worst day of an average year for fireworks safety is July 4, according to Hall.

Fireworks related fires in 2011
Source: NFPA

  • 17,800 total fires, including…
  • 1,200 structure fires
  • 400 vehicle fires
  • $32 million in property damage or loss
  • 40 injuries
  • Eight dead

When it comes to fireworks safety, there’s nothing better than leaving the show to be done by professionals. According to Shreve (2004), it’s harder and harder for pyrotechnic companies who provide fireworks displays to stay in business. The reason is that it’s harder and harder to comply with local safety standards, as they become more stringent. The companies that perform the best are the ones that can afford the insurance requirements to put on a fireworks show.

What fireworks safety boils down to is that fireworks are meant for everybody’s enjoyment. The average driver shouldn’t take a Formula 1 race car for a drive up to the grocery store. The average disposable lighter operator shouldn’t set off explosives. What’s better is if people with years of experience take months of planning and put on a show with an emergency response plan in place. Fireworks safety is about preventing fires, injuries, loss of property and loss of life. A good credo to adopt is “no regrets,” and with fireworks, there’s a big risk for regret.

References

Hall, J. (2013). Fireworks. National Fire Protection Association.

Laudan, L. (1995). Where there’s smoke. (1995). Consumers’ Research Magazine, 78(6), 36.

Shreve, M. (2004). Event sponsors keeping eye on fireworks risks. Business Insurance, 38(26), 3.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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Helen Keller Day – Honoring a ‘Miracle,’ an Activist & an American Icon

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June 27 is Helen Keller Day

The girl who put the work in The Miracle Worker Helen Keller later became an activist with controversial opinions on politics, feminism and the treatment of the blind and deaf that were way ahead of her time. She is celebrated nationally as an American icon on her birthday: June 27, a date which has been named Helen Keller Day in her honor.

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Helen Keller was treated as a curiosity from early in her life. As Brewton (2005) wrote of the deaf-blind activist, people were more amazed that Keller had opinions than they were interested in what her opinions were. As a 19-month-old girl in the late 19th century, Keller was stricken with Scarlett Fever by some accounts, and meningitis by others, which caused her to lose her senses of sight and hearing. Her parents feared she couldn’t be taught even the most basic facets of normal life, and as a young girl, Helen Keller was extremely wild.

The family was referred by a Baltimore eye doctor to telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and he convinced them to not consider young Helen a lost cause. Bell referred the Keller’s to Michael Anagnos who was the director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind. If not for what he did next, it’s likely no one would know who Helen Keller was. Anagnos sent Anne Sullivan, a former student of the Perkins Institute, who had lost her vision in her youth, and had it saved by surgery. Sullivan knew the manual alphabet, which would come to be Helen Keller’s metaphoric light in her silent world of literal darkness.

The Miracle Worker

Visitors to Helen Keller’s childhood home in Tuscumbia, Alabama can still see the water pump Anne Sullivan used to spell “W-A-T-E-R” by signing the manual alphabet into young Helen’s hand, while she pumped water over it. This scene was made famous in TK’s Broadway play, The Miracle Worker, which also became a movie starring a young Patty Duke as Helen Keller, and Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan. While the play and the movie are both considered great works of theater and cinema, respectively, it portrayed Helen Keller’s story more as an escape from isolation than the awakening of an activist.

Over the years, Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller became close friends. In a time when few women actually received college educations, Helen Keller became the first deaf-blind person to complete a degree, when she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. At Radcliffe, she befriended John Macy, who married Anne Sullivan, and she became Anne Sullivan Macy. John Macy, a socialist, would loan his books on the subject to Helen Keller, at her request. After her graduation, Keller began writing her own books, first about her life, and then about political and activist causes near and dear to her heart.

According to Nielsen (2009), much of Helen Keller’s collegiate success should be attributed to the exhausting work done by Anne Sullivan, who would translate lecture notes and textbooks to Keller by manual alphabet, while they waited, sometimes to mid-semester, for Braille textbooks to be delivered.

Helen Keller – The Socialist

In the early 20th century, before the Russian revolution, many Americans identified as socialist, Keller being one of them. In her writings, she talked about the needs to protect the workers as she lambasted capitalism. She believed that historical precedents suggested that one day capitalism would be replaced. Steel tycoon and devout capitalist Andrew Carnegie once suggested that Helen Keller needed a spanking.

The tenor at which Keller would speak about socialist causes varied from outright talk of revolutionary overthrow to more nuanced considerations taken from her role in society as a woman, and a person living with a disability. She suggested, while supporting the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), that the workers of the world must take power as the means of production in the name of democracy.

Helen Keller – The Pacifist

As well as being a socialist, Helen Keller spoke out against war as a pacifist. She held the belief that wars were fought to preserve the interests of the wealthy. Keller said WWI benefited the military industry more than anything.

Her pacifism came from her Christian beliefs that evolved from a strict Calvinist upbringing after she met Emmanuel Swedenborg, a Christian mystic who taught that religion was based more on common love than fear of damnation. She wrote a book titled Light in my Darkness which is considered Helen Keller’s spiritual autobiography.

Keller suspended her pacifism in face of the threat presented by Adolf Hitler in WWII.

Helen Keller – The Feminist

The beliefs held by Helen Keller regarding a woman’s place in society were quite radical by the standards of her era. According to Brewton (2005), she argued that doctors should get over their “false modesty” and talk to women about the dangers of sexually-transmitted diseases, as they were a leading cause of neonatal blindness.

Furthermore, she saw the lack of available birth control as a capitalist plot to advance child labor, and that people needed to hold back “the power of propagation.”

Helen Keller – Activist for the Blind and Deaf

Through everything, Helen Keller fought to alter the perception that the blind and deaf were charity cases; instead, they should receive educations, and work as productive members of society. In Helen Keller’s later life, after her long-time friend Anne Sullivan Macy died, she began to travel the world to speak about the blind and deaf, in particular about those who lost their sight and hearing due to war.

Helen Keller Day – June 27

While some of Helen Keller’s views may have been controversial, her overcoming of adversity, her passion and her dedication to people besides herself are what earned her the recognition of a national commemorative day. The honor was bestowed by Jimmy Carter, but she had also received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Lyndon Johnson.

SOURCES

Brewton, V. (2005). “Helen (Adams) Keller.” American Radical and Reform Writers: First Series. Retrieved from Academic Source Premier database.

Nielsen, K. (2009). “The Grown-up Helen Keller.” Alabama Heritage. Retrieved from Academic Source Premier database.

Tom Dalton

I first started making signs back in the early 90's. On January first 2000 I started Signs Direct as an online company specializing in making sign purchases easy and economical. Signs Direct, Inc. specializes in traffic and parking signs, customized neon signs, sign holders and sign stands, as well as banners and sign making materials.

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