New York offers Fourth of July safety tips

Fireworks in Saranac Lake from July 4, 2022 (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul Friday reminded New Yorkers that the July 4th weekend typically sees a rise in sparkling device and firework-related injuries. Food-borne illnesses and water accidents are also more prevalent during the holiday time. Three state agencies offer their expertise to remind of the dangers to make for a safer, more enjoyable time for all.

“July 4th is a special time to gather and spend time with your loved ones and friends,” Governor Hochul said. “While celebrating Independence Day, I encourage everyone to follow these tips and to enjoy the holiday weekend. Please stay safe from the preventable: stay away from dangerous fireworks, exercise caution around water and don’t let food poisoning ruin your weekend.”

The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection, along with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Fire Prevention and Control and the New York State Department of Health are reminding New Yorkers to keep safe while celebrating Independence Day. Every year thousands of people — most of them children, teens and young adults — are injured while using fireworks and sparkling devices, and most of these injuries happen in the weeks surrounding July 4th. Across the United States, at least 11 people died in incidents involving fireworks in 2022, and an estimated 10,200 people were injured, with the majority of them — 73% — occurring during the weeks before and after the July 4th holiday. A 2021 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows a 25% increase in fireworks-related injuries between 2006 and 2021.

In New York State in 2021, there were 199 fireworks-related injury visits reported by emergency departments, with 142 of those visits reported between June 18 July 18. Additionally, 24 percent of the visits during that time period were by patients 18 years of age or under. Injuries to both children and adults include eye and ear damage, burns, puncture wounds, and permanent scarring.

Common causes of fireworks-related injuries are:

¯ A fast-fuse firecracker explodes before it can be thrown.

¯ A misguided rocket strikes a bystander.

¯ A curious youngster goes to investigate why a firecracker “failed” to explode.

While avoiding the use of illegal fireworks is the best way to prevent injury, the Department also recommends taking simple precautions while watching professional fireworks displays, including using earplugs to protect hearing, keeping a safe distance from the launch site, and leaving pets at home. If your pet is nervous around fireworks at home, please consult your veterinarian for ways to protect and comfort him or her.

What’s legal

¯ Sale of sparkling devices by registered sellers from June 1 until July 5 annually. Sparkling devices are ground-based or handheld sparking devices that produce a shower of colored sparks or colored flame, crackling or whistling noise and smoke. They do not launch into the air.

¯ Users must be 18 years or older to use sparkling devices.

What’s not legal

¯ The possession and use of sparkling devices in cities with populations of more than one million people and where prohibited by local law. This includes New York City and the following counties: Albany, Bronx, Columbia, Erie, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange (prohibited in the Cities of Middletown and Newburgh only), Queens, Richmond, Schenectady, Suffolk, Warren and Westchester. The list of counties that prohibit the sale and possession of sparkling devices is ever changing; for compliance, please check with your local county sheriff’s office.

¯ Fireworks including firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles, spinners, and aerial devices, are illegal statewide.

DCP and OFPC offered guidance to New Yorkers planning to use sparkling devices over the next week in celebration of the Fourth of July holiday:

¯Children and sparklers are a dangerous combination. Never allow young children to play with or ignite sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to melt some metals.

¯ Never throw or point sparkling devices toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.

¯ Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution or keep an approved fire extinguisher nearby during a display.

¯ Make sure the person lighting sparkling devices always wears eye protection.

¯ Light only one sparkling device at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”

¯ Always use sparkling devices outdoors. Never light sparklers inside.

¯ Store sparkling devices in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

¯ If you are impaired by alcohol, don’t use sparkling devices.

¯ Always wear eye protection when using sparkling devices

¯ Purchase sparkling devices and novelty devices from New York State registered retailers only

Sales of sparkling devices by certified permanent and specialty retailers can only take place during the year from June 1 to July 5 and December 26 to January 2. Sales of sparkling devices by certified temporary stands or tents can only occur from June 20 to July 5 and December 26 to January 2.

A list of registered sparkling device vendors appears here.

OFPC also encourages parents and guardians to provide children and teens with non-flammable alternatives to sparkling devices, which can be easily found at most retail stores.

Suggested items include:

¯ Glow Sticks

¯ Pipe Cleaner “Sparklers”

¯ Fairy Lights

¯ LED Items

The New York State Department of Health also reminds New Yorkers of food safety and water safety during our summer and holiday time.

Food safety is also a key component to ensuring an enjoyable holiday and some proven food preparation routines can help prevent potentially serious illness or even death. Always wash hands after handling raw meat and before preparing or serving ready-to-eat food. Meat should be cooked to the proper temperature to avoid illness from germs such as E-coli and salmonella, which can be present in undercooked meats such as chicken and hamburger.

Hot outdoor temperatures can also impact the safety of perishable foods. Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. If the food is exposed to temperatures above 90F, refrigerate it within 1 hour. The Department’s tips for food safety are available here and recommendations for those planning a barbecue are available here.

A day at the beach or in the pool can be a perfect way to enjoy summer and celebrate the holiday, as long as water safety is a priority. Each year, hundreds of New Yorkers drown or are hospitalized for severe injuries related to drowning. Some tips for safe swimming include never swimming alone, supervising children around water, avoiding drugs and alcohol while swimming, and learning basic swimming and water safety skills. Additional recommendations for water safety can be found here.


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