From late November to mid-January, when many families gather, parties are attended and travel increases, safety should be on everyone’s minds. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Safety Office, along with the National Safety Council, offer tips to help ensure you and your family remain safe throughout the holidays.
If traveling during the holidays, be sure your vehicle is in good condition and be prepared for emergencies.
● Prepare your car for winter and keep an emergency kit with you.
● Get a good night’s sleep before departing and avoid drowsy driving.
● Leave early, planning ahead for heavy traffic.
● Make sure every person in the vehicle is properly buckled up, no matter how long or short the distance traveled.
● Put that cell phone away; many distractions occur while driving, but cell phones are the main culprit
● Practice defensive driving.
● Designate a sober driver to ensure guests make it home safely after a holiday party; alcohol or over-the-counter prescription and illegal drugs can cause impairment.
When shopping during the holidays, be sure to take steps to ensure safety.
● Be wary of “shoulder surfers” as you take out cash from ATMs or pay for items with your credit card. Make sure to put receipts in a safe place.
● If carrying a large amount of cash, keep a portion of the money separate from your wallet/purse in case you get pick pocketed or lose your purse.
● If you bought so many presents that you have to take a trip to the car to unload your packages, make sure you place the items in your trunk and out of sight. Since thieves often watch store parking lots, relocate your car to another parking space after loading the trunk.
Decorating is one of the best ways to get in a holiday mood, but emergency rooms see thousands of injuries involving holiday decorating every season. When decorating follow these tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
● Keep potentially poisonous plants – mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis – away from children.
● If using an artificial tree, check that it is labeled “fire resistant.”
● If using a live tree, cut off about 2 inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption, remember to water it and remove it from your home when it is dry.
● Place your tree at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, making certain not to block doorways.
● Avoid placing breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower tree branches where small children can reach them.
● Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors and choose the right ladder for the task when hanging lights.
● Replace light sets that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
● Follow the package directions on the number of light sets that can be plugged into one socket.
● Never nail, tack or stress wiring when hanging lights, and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow.
● Turn off all lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
CANDLES and FIREPLACE SAFETY
Use of candles and fireplaces, combined with an increase in the amount of combustible, seasonal decorations in many homes during the holidays, means more risk for fire. The National Fire Protection Association reports that one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles and that two of every five decoration fires happen because the decorations are placed too close to a heat source.
● Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of children.
● Keep matches and lighters up high and out of reach of children in a locked cabinet.
● Use flameless, rather than lighted, candles near flammable objects.
● Don't burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
● Use a screen on the fireplace at all times when a fire is burning.
● Never leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended or when you are asleep.
● Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year.
Keep your holidays happy by handling food safely. The foodsafety.gov website from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides some valuable holiday food safety tips:
● Wash your hands frequently when handling food.
● Keep raw meat away from fresh produce.
● Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for uncooked and cooked meats to avoid cross-contamination.
● Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked to a safe temperature.
● Refrigerate hot or cold leftover food within two hours of being served.
● When storing turkey, cut the leftovers in small pieces so they will chill quickly.
● Leftovers are safe for three to four days when properly refrigerated.