July 4, 2016 Atlanta - The finale fireworks spectacular light up over the Downtown skyline during Centennial Olympic Park's Fourth of July Celebration on Monday, July 4, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/hshin@ajc.com
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/hshin@ajc.com

Five things to know about Georgia’s new fireworks law

Beginning July 1, local governments can choose how to regulate the use of fireworks in their cities and towns. The General Assembly approved a law this year that gives the power to local officials after some complained about neighbors setting off the devices year-round. Here are five things you need to know about the law:

Local governments can start making changes July 1

As with many of the state’s new laws, local governments had to wait until July 1 to begin enforcing new noise ordinances that address fireworks. The legislation, House Bill 419, gave local officials the authority to pass regulations that could effectively ban the use of fireworks except for certain holidays. However, the law requires locals to enact “general” noise ordinances that don’t target fireworks use.

Fireworks allowed statewide on certain holidays

Those who live in towns that choose to regulate fireworks but would still like to set them off will be able to do so seven days a year. The law allows fireworks statewide on Jan. 1, the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day, July 3, July 4, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve. Lawmakers debated including Memorial Day on the list, citing the problems the sound of fireworks can cause for veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder. Legislators decided instead to limit the use to the weekend before Memorial Day, which honors fallen military.

Fireworks have been legal in Georgia since 2015

The General Assembly first allowed the purchase of fireworks in Georgia in 2015, but the Legislature did not include permissions for local cities and counties to fully regulate their use. State Rep. Deborah Silcox, R-Sandy Springs, who sponsored the legislation, said she’d heard of savvy residents who referenced the ambiguity of the law if police were called.

Retailers will urge customers to research local ordinances

Anyone selling fireworks in Georgia will be required to post signs urging customers to check their local ordinances to find out when the devices can be used. The law instructs retailers to also include information encouraging customers to be mindful that unexpected fireworks can be traumatic for military veterans and pets.

The governor can suspend all fireworks use

The law also allows the governor to suspend all fireworks use during a drought. If the Keetch-Byram Drought Index reaches a level of 700 or higher in any part of the state, a governor can halt the use of fireworks. The Keetch-Byram Drought Index is a federal standard used to measure the potential for fire. Once the index number falls below 700, the governor can lift the suspension.

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