The pressure is on to make that delicious meal, deck the halls beautifully, buy that perfect gift, get to the million places where you are obligated to be – on top of all the everyday chores that must get done. Unfortunately, while you’re rushing around with your heavy to-do list, there are also holiday safety risks that you may need to contend with.
’Tis the season, in fact, for greater fire risk (people trying to stay warm, brittle Christmas trees, jury-rigged wiring for lights and displays, candles), traffic accidents (tied to miles traveled and alcohol consumed), and an abundance of emergency room visits (one estimate from the Consumer Product Safety Commission puts the U.S. tally at 250 injuries a day during the holidays).
So, with home safety tips for the holidays in mind, sit down and put together your to-don’ts list – or use ours and save time.
Don’t Forget Fire Safety
Fireplaces are crackling, candles are flickering, ovens and turkey fryers are fired up. Keep that heat contained, and don’t forget that your oh so beautiful Christmas tree is the culprit in more than 200 structure fires every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. So remember:
- Don’t leave ovens, turkey fryers, barbecue grills – any heat-generating cooking equipment – unattended when in use.
- Battery-operated candles are the safest. If you use real candles, never leave them unattended when in use. Keep kids and pets away from the flames. Keep candles on a flat, stable surface, and make sure there is nothing flammable close enough to be ignited.
- Keep your Christmas tree safe by watering it daily, and get rid of it when it begins shedding a lot of needles. When buying a tree, check to see that the resin at the cut is still sticky and the needles aren’t brittle. Tap the tree on the ground, and don’t buy it if it sheds more than a few needles. Never place a tree near heat sources such as vents, fireplaces, space heaters, or radiators.
- Keep decorations and other combustibles at least 3 feet from any heat source.
- Do not use a gas fireplace if the glass panel is missing or broken. Make sure vents are unobstructed and working.
- Have chimneys inspected annually. Use a fire screen when a fire is going. Keep kids and pets away from the fireplace. Don’t burn trash or wrapping paper. Never use gasoline or a liquid accelerant to start a fire. Never leave a fire unattended.
- Fire safety measures should include fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke alarms. Follow the maintenance instructions to ensure the equipment works when needed.
Don’t Forget Electrical Safety
The National Fire Protection Association warns that more than 800 home fires a year begin with holiday decorations. With that in mind, the Electrical Safety Foundation International offers these tips on electrical safety:
- All extension cords and electrical decorations should be marked for proper use (indoor only, outdoor only).
- Check all lights, cords, and decorations for damage before using.
- Outdoor lights and decorations should be connected to ground fault circuit interrupters.
- Don’t put exterior decorations (or yourself) within 10 feet of power lines.
- Don’t overload electrical outlets.
- Turn off all decorations, indoor and outdoor, before leaving or going to sleep.
- Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights together.
- Make sure all cords and electrical decorations have been approved by testing labs such as Underwriters Laboratory.
Don’t Forget Highway Safety
The AAA auto club estimates that on a typical Christmas-New Year’s week, about 100 million Americans will be on the highways, with accidents injuring about 30,000 and killing about 250. Here are some tips for preparing for a safe road trip:
- Make sure your car is in good shape, from tire pressure and wear to battery life. Also check fluid levels and brakes.
- Map your route and be ready for heavy traffic. Try not to drive during peak traffic hours.
- Carry roadside assistance contact information, along with auto registration and insurance papers.
- Take a cellphone and charger. AAA and others offer smartphone apps that enable motorists to get help without making a phone call.
- Fasten all safety belts and child restraints, and make sure the latter are size-appropriate.
- Monitor weather forecasts.
- Be well-rested and alert.
- Don’t drive impaired or ride with a driver who is, and try to stay off the road during late-night and early-morning hours, which is when impaired drivers are more likely to be on the road.
- Do not speed. Each 10 mph reduction in speed halves the probability of being killed in a crash.
- Drive defensively. Don’t tailgate. Stay out of vehicles’ blind spots, especially those of trucks, and let aggressive drivers pass.
- Use caution in work zones.
- Give full attention to the road; avoid distractions such as cellphones when driving.
- If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.
Don’t Forget Safe Gifting
You could put yourself at risk – of the silent treatment, or worse – if you buy your mate or spouse a thoughtless gift, but you are an adult and can deal with the consequences. Holiday gifting, however, often is for the children in your life, and no one wants to give a gift that injures a youngster. That makes shopping serious business, something that could benefit from guidelines.
Some advice is simple common sense (always buy age-appropriate toys, for instance), but there are hidden risks, too, including some that are a product of advancing technology. For example, button batteries that can be found in remote controls, watches, and toys can be lethal if swallowed. A child who has swallowed a button battery is at risk of chemical burns and tissue damage that can result in death.
Safety is a subject where learning the hard way isn’t acceptable, so here are some holiday safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission for:
Children Younger Than 3
- Avoid small parts that can be swallowed, which sometimes can be found in toys rated for this age group.
- Broken balloons and deflated balloons are a choking hazard.
- Marbles and balls 1.75 inches in diameter or smaller are a choking hazard.
- Toys with small parts that can be pulled off, including the eyes, noses, and other parts of stuffed animals, pose a choking risk.
- Avoid sharp edges and points.
Children Ages 3 to 5
- Thin plastic toys break easily and pose an injury or choking risk.
- Buy crayons and paint sets marked ASTM D-4236, indicating they have been tested for health hazards.
Children Ages 6 to 12
- Continually check toys for broken parts and pieces that could hurt your child. Discard broken toys.
- Include safety gear such as helmets and pads for toys such as bicycles and skateboards.
Parents teach children to share, so this might come as a surprise: Teach your older children not to let their younger siblings use toys that might injure them.
Staying safe is not an accident. Protecting those you cherish is, in fact, a conscious labor of love, one often done instinctively. There are some challenges that are beyond common sense and instinct, times when the actions of others harm you or yours despite your best efforts.
Be it reckless driving that jeopardizes innocent people or a defective toy that poses a health risk to children, don’t let negligence that hurts those you love go unanswered. In the Florida communities of Flagler and Volusia counties, the law firm of Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant has been providing personal injury litigation services to residents since 1973. The firm cherishes its reputation of commitment to clients and community.
Contact us today for a consultation to learn how we can help you seek justice for those you love.