Millions of us get excited for the winter holiday season, and our excitement can often lead to distraction. Our lists of things to do and our focus on making plans can cause us to become vulnerable in our haste.
This is the time to slow down and focus when we are shopping, decorating, cooking, traveling, and visiting loved ones. It’s time to think about preventing injury and accidents—especially while protecting the elderly, our children, and family pets. We have to remain vigilant against theft, fires, food-borne illnesses, communicable diseases, and defective products.
When we are driving or traveling for shopping or visiting – there are things to consider for safety and protection. If possible, it’s ideal to try to avoid driving at night, but if you are shopping at night, park in well lit areas and do not leave valuable items or packages in open view inside your vehicle. Aim to always be aware of your surroundings and keep your purse or wallet safely secured on your person. When using an ATM to withdrawal funds, choose one in a lighted area, take only the cash you need, and put your receipts in your pocket. Dress plainly and comfortably, shop with a friend, don’t overload yourself with bags and packages, and be wary of strangers approaching you when your hands are full. In fact, during this time of year in which the highly contagious flu and COVID-19 are prevalent, it’s best to remain a safe distance from others while following all sanitary safety precautions. If you have to take your children shopping with you, make sure to keep them nearby at all times and that they understand what to do if you were to become separated.
While on the subject of children, be aware of toy recalls and safety alerts. Holiday toy safety and recall information can be found on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website. Sadly, toy-related injuries, and even deaths, impact thousands of children every year. In just 2020, the CPSC reported that nearly 150,000 toy-related injuries put kids in emergency rooms, and there were 9 deaths among children up to 14 years old. Choking hazards such as small parts, balls, beads, magnets, and batteries were the top injuries – along with accidents involving non-motorized scooters.
Always choose toys with the child’s age, physical abilities, and interests in mind. If gifting riding toys such as bikes and scooters, include safety gear such as a helmet.
At home, and when visiting others, children still need to be closely monitored. Everyone needs to work together to protect kids from falls, burns, drowning, and other potential dangers.
Protecting your home is important if you will be away for several hours shopping, or away for several days visiting family and friends. Taking a few minutes to be extra cautious about locking your doors and windows can make a big difference. If you will be away for an extended period of time, ask a local friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your place and bring in any mail and packages. Any valuable items or gifts should be tucked away out of the plain sight of passers by.
Whether you have a house sitter or are at home, it’s a good practice to be wary of any strangers coming to your door. Unfortunately, in some areas, those wishing to commit a crime may pose as couriers, repair technicians, or pose as charitable representatives. There are those that use the holiday season to take advantage of others, so being politely cautious is necessary.
It’s a time of celebration and there will likely be get-togethers and parties. Whether you are hosting or attending, always follow health and safety protocols and never let anyone drink and drive. Making arrangements in advance for designated drivers or other transportation can, and often does, save lives.
When preparing food, it’s obvious that we must wash hands and all surfaces often to avoid germs and cross-contamination—but it’s also time to think about food safety, allergies, and the safety of our pets as well. Infectious organisms or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning, so wash all produce well and always cook meals to their ideal temperature.
Our furry family members may try to consume foods that are not for them—and this can cause them to experience digestive upset, illness, pancreatitis, kidney failure, or even death. While chocolate is one of the most known dangers for pets, anything with onions, garlic, xylitol, alcohol, grapes, raisins, and some nuts can be hazardous. Also ask guests to avoid giving pets spicy foods or small bones.
Ornaments, decorations, ribbons, candles, or an unsecured Christmas tree can all be hazards to pets. Charger cords and holiday lights can also pose a danger for pets prone to chewing. Having visitors, or traveling to new places, can be stressful for many pets – so be sure to make arrangements for them to have a calm comfortable carrier or room to go to, frequent bathroom breaks, plenty of water, and of course – a lot of love.
The wonderful holiday greenery, the Christmas trees, the twinkling lights, the lit candles, the baking and cooking – can all lead to a big holiday hazard – fire. More than 35% of home decoration fires were started by candles year-round, and 45% in December alone. The year 2019 had shown that the three leading dates for home fires caused by cooking were Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas day.
When the greens or trees are allowed to dry out inside of warm homes, they can become more prone to flammability. Fire departments in the United States responded to an average of 160 Christmas tree-caused home fires, and 790 fires due to other decorations in the 4 years between 2015 and 2019. It’s imperative to keep your tree watered, and to spritz decorative greenery often with water as well.
In the month of January is when 30% of Christmas tree fires occurred, and although tree fires are not extremely common, the burn is fast and often devastating. A live Christmas tree burn that was conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) demonstrated how quickly a dried out Christmas tree burns, with flashover occurring in less than one minute—in comparison to a well-watered tree that burns at a much slower rate. In almost half of the home Christmas tree fires, electrical issues or lighting equipment was involved, and extension cords are often another cause of home fires.
When decorating, be sure not to run any cords under furniture or rugs. Avoid using too many extension cords or adapters and consider calling a qualified electrician to install more outlets in your home. Keep tablets, laptops, and phones on the nightstand and not on beds or other soft surfaces where they could overheat.
Space heaters need to be monitored and turned off if left alone because a fire can start in mere seconds if a space heater tips over—or if it comes in contact with combustible material such as curtains, blankets, greenery, or wrapping paper.
Great gift ideas include smoke detectors and Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) outlets. All homes should have working smoke alarms in each room, hallway, or basement. Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets or breakers can be installed to prevent an estimated 50% of the yearly electrical fires.
Safety precautions extend from your home to your person. While the most effective way to stay your healthiest this year may to stay home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that anytime people are in close extended contact with others not in their household, it raises pandemic infection risk. It’s good to stay up to date on your health exams, screenings, and vaccinations. Vaccinations help to prevent severe illnesses and help to save lives.
Packed shopping malls, crowded trains, busy airports, and other indoor gatherings can be risky activities during flu season. Wash your hands often, wear your mask, and maintain safe distances. Help prevent the spread of germs and follow all safety guidelines to protect yourself and your loved ones.
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National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate. We focus on eliminating the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths.
National Fire Protection Association
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global self-funded nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.
Electrical Safety Foundation International
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is the premier non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The CDC is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services, aimed towards protecting America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats.