In order to purchase, store, or use display fireworks (any fireworks not specifically marked as 1.4G or Class C consumer fireworks), you must have a professional fireworks license. At the federal level, this is regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF or BATFE). In addition, some states require additional licenses or permits to handle display fireworks within that state. Here is what you need to know.
The federal licensing process is reasonably straightforward, but you must meet specific criteria. To be considered for a professional fireworks license, all of the following must be true:
- Not an illegal drug user or addicted to any substance
- Not a fugitive, under indictment for any crime punishable by more than a year of imprisonment, or currently appealing a conviction punishable by more than a year of imprisonment
- Never have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment
- Not an alien residing in the United States
- Never have renounced U.S. citizenship
- Must prove the ability to safely store unused fireworks in accordance with federal regulations
If you meet all of the above criteria, you are eligible to apply for a professional fireworks license, but it is no guarantee that you will receive one. The next step is to have your fingerprints taken by a law enforcement official. Then fill out an Application for Explosives License or Permit (Form ATF F 5400.13/5400.16), downloadable at the ATF website, and attach your fingerprint card along with a 2” x 2” photo of yourself.
As you might suspect, you will undergo an extensive background check. This process can take up to about three months. If you pass, you will be contacted by ATF for a field interview with an Industry Operations Investigator, or IOI. This person will verify the information on your application, review storage and recordkeeping requirements with you, and make you aware of state and local regulations.
If the investigator is satisfied, he or she will make a recommendation that you receive a license. The field supervisor will review the report, and you will receive your new fireworks license within the next several days.
Note that if you have employees who come into contact with professional fireworks as part of their employment, they must fill out ATF Form 5400.28, the Employee Possessor Questionnaire. Although it is not nearly as detailed as the overall fireworks license, employees must meet the same criteria regarding background history. Electronic background checks are performed on all employees who submit the questionnaire.
Some states require those who handle professional fireworks to obtain a state license in addition to the federal license. Requirements for state licensing run the gamut from filling out a form to passing a written test to demonstrating previous experience as an assistant at professional fireworks shows. Some states have different types of licenses for different job classifications or types of pyrotechnics.
Because the regulations vary so dramatically from state to state, it is very important to investigate your state’s laws before you begin the process of obtaining a professional fireworks license. Be sure to check on your local city and county ordinances as well.
Although it is not required, professional fireworks certification is available through the Pyrotechnics Guild International (PGI). The PGI Display Operator Certification (DOC) Course is a one-day class with hands-on, live fire training. You must pass a written test and demonstrate to your instructor that you can safely hand-fire shells. Should you want to obtain a full certificate, you must also log experience working on four professional shows in any capacity, and one show as the lead or co-lead shooter.
In some locations, PGI certification can be substituted for state or local licensure. In other locales, you must still pass the state or local test, but PGI certification can be substituted for the training portion of the licensing requirement. Check with your state and local authorities for more information.
At Dynamite Fireworks, we don’t only sell top-quality, name-brand fireworks. We also provide the information you need to know to use them responsibly, legally, and safely. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call at (219) 937-4090. We look forward to becoming your one-stop shop for all your fireworks needs!