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WMC Encourages Safe Fourth of July Celebrations with Fireworks Safety Tips

Dr. Ivan Miller, Director of Emergency Medicine at Westchester Medical Center, explains how to stay safe when celebrating the 4th of July.
Dr. Ivan Miller, Director of Emergency Medicine at Westchester Medical Center, explains how to stay safe when celebrating the 4th of July. Photo Credit: Westchester Medical Center

WESTCHESTER, N.Y. -- Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks often go hand in hand, but fireworks – especially those that are illegal – can be extremely dangerous and can cause serious injuries. Each year, thousands of adults and children are treated at hospitals across the United States for serious burns, amputations, and other significant injuries resulting from the use of illegal fireworks.

Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, encourages all residents to leave the fireworks to the professionals this Fourth of July and adhere to New York State fireworks safety laws. In many areas of New York State, including New York City and Westchester County, it is illegal to possess, sell or purchase consumer fireworks.

“Fireworks are the cause of many avoidable injuries that we see in the emergency department, especially in the month surrounding the Fourth of July. Fireworks can fly into the face of a user or bystander and cause an eye injury, ignite clothing or cause serious burns,” said Ivan Miller, MD, Director of Emergency Medicine at Westchester Medical Center, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and MidHudson Regional Hospital. “Burns make up more than half of fireworks-related injuries and are the most common injuries sustained from fireworks to all parts of the body except the eyes, where contusions, lacerations and injuries from foreign objects are more frequent."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that in 2014 (the most recent data available), 11 people in the United States died as a result of illegal fireworks and more than 10,500 were treated in emergency departments. Injuries to children and young adults under age 20 made up more than half of emergency department-treated fireworks injuries.

Some counties in New York State, such as Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan and Rockland Counties, recently legalized the use of sparklers for people over the age of 18. While legal in some areas, these fireworks have the capability to burn at temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees and can cause series burns to adults and children. All fireworks, including sparklers, are still illegal in Westchester County and New York City. 

To help residents celebrate the Fourth of July safely this year, Dr. Miller encourages everyone to leave the fireworks to the professionals. Many communities in the region host fireworks displays that are controlled by licensed pyrotechnical experts and open to the public to provide a safe and fun way to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday. Check with your local town hall, municipality, or your local newspaper to find scheduled fireworks displays in your area.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also cautions that fireworks can be hazardous and in many cases, illegal, offering these fireworks safety tips for those who plan to use them:

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
  • Back up a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose on hand in case of fire or other mishaps.
  • Never point or throw fireworks, or try to pick up or relight fireworks that have not fully
  • ignited.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.