Holiday safety is an issue that burns brightest from late November to mid-January, when families gather, parties are scheduled and travel spikes. Take some basic precautions to ensure your family remains safe and injury-free throughout the season.
Traveling for the Holidays?
Many people choose to travel by car during the holidays, which has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. In 2017, 329 people died on New Year's Day, 463 on Thanksgiving Day and 299 on Christmas Day, according to Injury Facts. Alcohol impairment was involved in about a third of the fatalities.
Stay safe on the roads over the holidays and every day:
• Prepare your car for winter and keep an emergency preparedness 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.
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 two 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 three 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.
Watch Out for 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 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 are out of reach of children;
• Keep matches and lighters up high and out of reach for 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.
Be alert to the dangers if you're thinking of celebrating the holidays by frying a turkey. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports there have been 154 turkey-fryer related fires, burns or other injuries since 2004, with $5.2 million in property damage losses have resulted from these incidents.
NSC discourages the use of turkey fryers at home and urges those who prefer fried turkey to seek out professional establishments or consider using an oil-less turkey fryer. If you must fry your own turkey, follow all U.S. Fire Administration turkey fryer guidelines.
In recent years, deep-frying turkeys has become increasingly popular. The cooking method requires placing the turkey in three gallons or more of oil, heated by propane.
Before you ever get near the deep fryer, it’s important for you to know that, however you cook your turkey, safety starts with proper thawing. Leaving a turkey out on a counter to thaw can cause Salmonella poisoning. Turkey (and all meats and fish, really) should be thawed in the refrigerator. Give yourself enough time to properly thaw your turkey. Here are the USDA guidelines for thawing a whole turkey in the refrigerator:
• 4 to 12 pounds: one to three days;
• 12 to 16 pounds: three to four days;
• 16 to 20 pounds: four to five days;
• 20 to 24 pounds: five to six days.
The Fire Department warns that cooking with deep-fat turkey fryers can be very dangerous as they have a high risk of tipping over, overheating, or spilling hot oil. That could lead to fires, burns, or other injuries.
Dangers of Frying a Turkey
Here are five dangers associated with deep-frying a turkey, according to the Fire Department.
1. Units can easily tip over, spilling hot cooking oil over a large area;
2. An overfilled cooking pot or partially frozen turkey will cause cooking oil to spill when the turkey is inserted;
3. A small amount of cooking oil coming into contact with the burner can cause a large fire;
4. Without thermostat controls, deep fryers have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion;
5. The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles can get dangerously hot, creating severe burn hazards.
If You Fry a Turkey, Do So Safely
Please follow the following precautions if deciding to fry a turkey this holiday season:
• Fryers should always be used outdoors, on a solid level surface a safe distance from buildings and flammable materials;
• Never use a fryer on a wooden deck, under a patio cover, in a garage or enclosed space;
• Do not overfill the fryer;
• Never leave the fryer unattended because, without thermostat controls, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire;
• Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use or after use as the oil can remain hot for hours;
• Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts and wear long sleeves and safety goggles to protect from splatter;
• Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before it is placed in a fryer;
• Keep all-purpose fire extinguishers nearby;
• If a turkey fryer fire occurs, call 911 immediately.