Summer hazards and how to avoid them

Expert advice on everything from boating safety to keeping your pets happy this summer season.

A firefighter cools down after battling a house fire in Huntington on Aug. 5. Credit: Steve Silverman

It’s the season for sun, fun, ice cream and … trauma.

That’s the warning given by doctors at a news conference at Nassau University Medical Center at the start of the summer.

The so-called “trauma season” brings heat-related cases to emergency rooms, and activities like boating and swimming come with their own hazards.

Here are some common hazards of the summer season and expert advice on how to avoid them:

Avoiding the dangers of flash flooding

On average, more people are killed by flooding than any other single severe weather event, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Most deaths occur at night and when people are trapped in vehicles. NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency offer these tips for staying safe:

  • Do not drive onto a flooded roadway. The water depth may not be obvious or the roadway may no longer be intact under the water. Take caution driving on wet roads, too. You can easily hydroplane and lose control of your vehicle. Do not drive at all if not necessary. One foot of moving water can sweep a vehicle away.
  • If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay inside. If water rises inside the vehicle, climb to the roof.
  • Do not walk, swim or play in flood water. Swiftly moving water can sweep you away and even 6 inches of flowing water can cause you to fall. Hazardous pollution in the water and electrocution due to fallen power lines are also concerns.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. If you live in a flood zone, prepare yourself and your family to leave quickly.

🌊How to escape a riptide

Rip currents are “powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Swimmers who get caught in rip currents should not fight the water by trying to swim straight back to the beach because they can get easily fatigued and drown, officials. They must swim parallel to shore and then swim back to land at an angle.

Here’s a guide released by Atlantic Beach officials ahead of the July Fourth holiday:

How to stay safe on a boat

  • Boater education: Learn the rules and your responsibilities. Seventy percent of boating accidents occur due to operator error.
  • Check your vessel: Both the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons have certified vessel examiners who will perform a free vessel safety check. There are no consequences if a boat does not pass. You can sign up for an inspection here.
  • Wear life jackets: More than 80 percent of boating fatality victims might have survived had they worn life jackets.
  • Don’t drink while boating: One-third of recreational boating accidents that resulted in deaths involved the use of alcohol.
  • Paddlers have a safety responsibility too: Canoeing, kayaking, rafting and stand-up paddle boarding can come with their own hazards. Among other tips, the American Canoe Association recommend you understand the dangers of cold water and the “rules of the road.” Some busy waterways have “lanes of travel.” It’s recommended that paddlers stay close to the shore to avoid larger watercraft. If a motorized craft is causing a wake, turn your bow into the wave and don’t take the wake motion broadside. You are less likely to capsize that way.
  • File a “float plan” — a form that describes your vessel, passengers and planned navigation – with a reliable person on land. You can download one from the Coast Guard here.
  • Carbon monoxide prevention: To protect yourself and others, know where CO can accumulate in and around your boat. Maintain fresh air circulation at all times and run exhaust blowers whenever the generator is on. CO symptoms are similar to seasickness or intoxication – treat symptoms of seasickness as possible CO poisoning and get the person into fresh air immediately.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard

Gina Lieneck of Deer Park, whose 11-year-old daughter Brianna was killed in a boating accident in 2005, spoke at a safety class in Bethpage on Sunday.

🐕Pet safety in the heat, at the beach and in the water


  • If your dog is outside on a hot day, make sure he has a shady spot to rest. Doghouses are not good shelter during the summer as they can trap heat. You may want to fill a child’s wading pool with fresh water for your dog to cool off in.
  • Never leave your dog in a closed vehicle on a hot day. The temperature inside a car can rise to over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes.
  • Always provide plenty of cool, fresh water.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise on extremely hot days. Take walks in the early mornings or evenings, when the sun’s heat is less intense.
  • Try to avoid prolonged exposure to hot asphalt or sand, which can burn your dog’s paws.
  • Dogs that are brachycephalic (short-faced), such as Bulldogs, Boxers, Japanese Chins, and Pekingese, have an especially hard time in the heat because they do not pant as efficiently as longer-faced dogs. Keep your brachycephalic dog inside with air-conditioning.

    • Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can sunburn. Limit your dog’s exposure during the day and apply sunblock to his ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside.
    • Check with a lifeguard for daily water conditions. Dogs are easy targets for sea lice and jellyfish.
    • Do not let your dog drink seawater; the salt will make him sick.
    • Most dogs enjoy swimming, but some cannot swim, and others may hate the water. Be conscious of your dog’s preferences and skills before trying to make him swim.
    • Never throw your dog into the water.
    • If swimming at the ocean, be careful of strong tides.
    • If you have your own pool, make sure your dog knows where the stairs or ladder are located. Be sure that pool covers are firmly in place; dogs have been known to slip in under openings in the covers and drown.
    • Never leave your dog unattended in water.

    For more summer dog tips, visit the AKC at

🎆Is there a safe way to handle fireworks?

All consumer fireworks, including firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles and even sparklers, are illegal in New York State. But that doesn’t mean they don’t find their way here.

To demonstrate the dangers of fireworks, emergency responders blew up a shed using 30 boxes of fireworks, firecrackers and mortars seized in June from a storage locker in Medford (see above). The raid led to the arrest of a Shirley man on charges of illegal storage of explosives and unlawfully dealing with fireworks.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported eight fireworks-related deaths in 2017, with victims ranging in age from 4 to 57. Fireworks also led to an estimated 12,900 emergency room visits nationwide — about two-thirds occurring around the July Fourth holiday, the commission said.

Suffolk Police Deputy Inspector Donald Raber also warned of the dangers of sparklers, which are prohibited in both counties.

“Sparklers can burn at over 2,000 degrees,” he said, leading potentially to second-degree burns to the fingers and face.

Long Islanders caught using a sparkler face a fine of up to $500. Anyone selling the devices could face 15 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Recommended safety tips

If you do find yourself around fireworks, the National Council on Fireworks Safety and the American Pyrotechnics Safety & Education Foundation offer some advice:

  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  • A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
  • Do not operate fireworks under the influence of alcohol.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks and keep spectators at a safe distance.
  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • FAA regulations prohibit the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

🚗What to consider before your teen heads out

Be cautious of where your teen wants to drive and with whom. Car crashes are one of the biggest concerns as young drivers out of school hit the roads with friends in tow.

The National Safety Council, a nonprofit public safety organization, said in a news release that teen drivers increase their risk of getting in a motor vehicle accident by 44 percent by having a single young passenger. The risk of an accident increases as the number of teen passengers in the car increases, the organization said.

More than 2,800 teens were killed in motor-vehicle crashes in 2016, according to the National Safety Council’s research. More than 75 percent of parents are unaware that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, the NSC found. Most fatal nighttime crashes involving teen drivers happen between 9 p.m. and midnight, so prom season is a particular concern and the council advised parents not to let kids drive themselves to the event.

The same goes for other summertime celebrations like graduations or graduation parties — especially when teens may be exposed to alcohol.

🏊Precautions for backyard pools

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1 to 4, according to Pool Safely, a national public education campaign that aims to reduce child drownings.

The campaign offers these tips to stay safe around pools:

  • Never leave a child unattended in or near water.
  • Teach children how to swim. There may be free or reduced-cost options at your local YMCA, USA Swimming chapter or Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Teach children to stay away from drains. Children’s hair, limbs, bathing suits or jewelry can get stuck in a drain or suction opening. Ensure all pools and spas have compliant drain covers and never enter a pool that has a loose, broken or missing drain cover.
  • Install proper barriers, covers and alarms on and around your pool and spa. Teach children never to try to climb the barrier.
  • Know how to perform CPR on children and adults.

With reporting by Robert Brodsky, Michael Cusanelli, Stefanie Dazio, Kadia Goba, Janelle Griffiths and Craig Schneider