Holiday Safety Tips: Avoiding 12 Holiday Hazards

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and I’m not trying to be a Grinch, but sharing holiday cheer with family and friends can also go really off-track in a big hurry.  Like the 12 Days of Christmas, here are some safety tips for avoiding 12 Holiday Hazards:

1. Defensive Decorating – ERs see about 160 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday season, almost half of which are falls:

  • never use the furniture as a ladder and use the right ladder for the task
  • always keep 3 points of contact with the ladder: 2 hands and 1 foot, or 2 feet and 1 hand.
  • be sure outdoor decorations are labeled for outdoor use
  • don’t nail, tack, or stress the wiring when hanging lights
  • keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow
  • don’t place breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts in reach of small children

2. Safe Travels – traveling by car during the holidays has the highest fatality rate of any form of transportation, and alcohol is involved in about a third of the fatalities.

  • be careful with the eggnog; alcohol impaired driving can ruin your holiday and your life
  • drive defensively and look out for drunk drivers
  • get a good nights sleep before departing and avoid drowsy driving
  • leave early and plan for heavy traffic and delays
  • avoid distracted driving by cell phones, kids, pets, etc.
  • be prepared for snow and ice (remember last month’s newsletter winter tips)

3. Fire Prevention – dried trees and unattended candles lead to dangerous fires.  In a recent 2-year period, there were over 1000 Christmas tree and candle fires in November and December each year causing nearly $56 million in property loss and resulting in 30 deaths.

  • be sure live trees have lots of water and look for a “fire resistant” label on artificials
  • place trees at least 3 feet from fireplaces, radiators, and any other heat sources
  • flameless, rather than lighted, candles are safer, especially near flammable objects
  • beware of hanging stockings or greenery on mantles if you use your fireplace frequently
  • keep a fire extinguisher handy and test your smoke detectors monthly
  • never leave candles or fireplaces burning when you leave the house or go to sleep

4. Shopper Safekeeping – malls, stores, and lots are filled with single-minded, oblivious shoppers. Stay alert and don’t let your guard down:

  • look twice when backing out of spaces; use a lookout if necessary
  • watch out for vehicles suddenly backing out of spaces
  • keep an eye on your kids, and watch out for small children running behind your car
  • shop in daylight hours whenever possible
  • avoid fatigue and spread your shopping over several days

5. Online Shopping Security – dodging the bricks and mortar only changes the potential hazards:

  • better to limit buying from retailers you know and trust
  • if the price seems too good to be true, beware of counterfeit product
  • use caution when buying from strangers on social media
  • some communities have safe spaces for online purchase exchanges, like outside the Decatur Police Department
  • check credit card statements frequently for signs of fraudulent activity

6. Electrical Hazards – be careful with those holiday lights:

  • only use lights approved by nationally recognized testing labs
  • inspect all lights for broken sockets, loose connections, frayed wires
  • don’t overload outlets with too many devices
  • When working on any strings of lights, unplug the string first, or kill the power at the breaker box

7. Food Precautions – cooking fires are the #1 cause of residential fires & food poisoning is no joke:

  • don’t leave stove burners or the oven unattended
  • keep kids occupied away from the kitchen
  • keep raw meat away from fresh produce
  • use separate cutting boards / utensils for uncooked and cooked meats to avoid contamination
  • refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of being served; beware of keeping more than 4 days

8. Toy Safety – we give kids toys to create happiness, not to cause injuries, but in 2020 there were nearly 150,000 toy-related ER treated injuries in children under 14.

  • toys are age-rated for safety, not just for children’s mental and physical development, so always choose toys for the correct age range
  • for children under 10, toys that must be plugged into an electrical outlet can be hazardous
  • when giving bikes, scooters, and other riding toys, give appropriate safety gear too, such as an appropriately sized helmet

9. Choking & Poisoning Prevention – take warnings about small parts and choking hazards seriously.

  • toys for children under 3 shouldn’t have small parts that could be choking hazards
  • toys with button batteries or small magnets can be harmful or fatal if swallowed
  • deflated balloons can be hazardous for children under 8
  • install and test a carbon monoxide monitor
  • Avoid distractions at holiday gatherings when your young children are eating, always monitor  young children carefully when they are eating

10. Dodging Criminals who might steal Christmas – the Grinch may be just a story, but thieves are all too real

  • park in well lighted locations, stay alert, and have your keys ready
  • keep packages out of sight in your trunk or covered on the floor of the back seat
  • when using an ATM, choose a well lighted one, protect your PIN, and don’t leave the receipt
  • notify credit card issuers immediately if a card is lost, stolen, or misused
  • be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts or as solicitors for charities

11. Perilous plants posing a risk for children and pets – consider safety when giving gifts of plants during the holidays

  • some holiday plans are potentially poisonous, including mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry, and amaryllis
  • while a poinsettia may be a beautiful plant, consider other gifts for friends with cats and dogs

12. Party Time Perils – make sure good times don’t have bad outcomes:

  • have non-alcoholic beverages available for your guests
  • have something to eat before consuming alcohol, know your limits, and remember that it takes time to eliminate alcohol from the body
  • designate a sober driver to ensure guests make it home safely after your holiday party
  • call a cab or an Uber rather than let someone drive impaired

Who knew fun could be so dangerous? So, make a list of precautions and check it twice to make sure you and your loved ones are safe and sound through the holiday season.

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