Enjoy the Holiday Season Safely

The holiday season is once again upon us! From mid-November to mid-January is the time when family and friends gather, parties are scheduled and travel increases. Being attentive to some basic precautions will ensure that you and your family remain safe throughout the season.

Be Prepared when traveling for the Holidays

Despite having the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile, many people choose to travel by car during the holidays. While the statistics for 2018 are not yet available, Injury Facts reports that in 2017, 463 people died on Thanksgiving Day, 299 on Christmas Day and 329 on New Year’s Day. Almost a third of those fatalities involved alcohol impairment. 

Tips on how to stay safe on the roads during the holidays and everyday:

  • Practice defensive driving
  • Put the cell phone away while driving; cell phones are one of the main culprits in distracted driving
  • No matter the distance you’re traveling, make sure that everyone is properly buckled up
  • Plan ahead for heavy traffic and leave early to give yourself enough time 
  • Avoid drowsy driving by getting a good night’s sleep before departing
  • Prepare your car for winter and keep emergency supplies with you

Decorate Safely

Decorating for the holidays is fun for everyone, however emergency rooms see thousands of injuries involving decorating every year.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asks that you follow these tips when decorating:

  • Turn off all lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Never nail, tack or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow.
  • Follow the package directions on the number of light sets that can be plugged into one socket.
  • Replace light sets that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors. Also choose the correct ladder for the job of hanging lights or other decorations.
  • Avoid placing breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower tree branches where small children can reach them.
  • Place your tree at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, making sure not to block doorways.
  • 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’s dry.
  • If using an artificial tree, check that it is labeled “fire resistant”.
  • Keep potentially poisonous plants – mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis – away from children.

Be aware of fire-starters

Candles and Fireplaces

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 of fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 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 the 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 per year.

Turkey Fryers

Be aware of the dangers associated with the use of fryers if you’re thinking of celebrating the holidays by frying a turkey. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports there have been 154 turkey-fryer related fires, burns or other injuries since 2004, with $5.2 million in property damage losses as a result.

It is recommended that you not use a turkey fryer in your home and instead consider using an oil-less fryer. If you must fry your own turkey, follow all U.S. Fire Administration turkey fryer guidelines.

Food Poisoning Is Not Fun

Proper safety when handling food will keep your holidays happy and healthy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides some valuable holiday food safety tips on the foodsafety.gov website.

  • 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 into smaller pieces so they will chill quickly
  • Thanksgiving leftovers will remain safe for three to four days when properly refrigerated

Here is a video with more information on handling food safely.

Give Safely

Gifts and toys should inspire joy, not cause injuries. More than a quarter of a million children were seriously injured in toy-related incidents in 2017. Avoid safety hazards while gifting with these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Toys are age-rated for safety, not for children’s intellect and physical ability, so be sure to choose toys in the correct age range
  • Choose toys for children under  that do not have small parts which could be choking hazards
  • For children under 10, avoid toys that must be plugged into an electrical outlet
  • Be cautious about toys that have button batteries or magnets, which can be harmful or fatal if swallowed
  • When giving scooters and other riding toys, give the gift of appropriate safety gear, too; helmets should be worn at all times and they should be sized to fit properly

To find out about holiday toy safety and recalls, check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.