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12 Safety Tips for Holiday Decorating

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 14,700 holiday decorating-related injuries are treated in emergency rooms every year. This averages to about 240 injuries per day during the holiday season of November and December.

Thomas J. Henry would like to remind you to practice safety when decorating for the holidays. Please be aware of decorating dangers and review the following safety tips.

Safety Tips for Christmas Trees and Decorations

  1. Check Your Tree for Freshness. If you are purchasing a live tree, be sure your tree is fresh. A fresh tree will be green, and its needles should be healthy. Healthy needles are hard to pull from branches and should not break when bent between your fingers. Also check the bottom of the tree as there should be a sticky resin.
  2. Do Not Place Your Tree Near a Heat Source. Always place your tree away from heat sources, including fire places, vents, and radiators. Also, heated rooms can rapidly dry out live treats, so be sure to check water levels daily and keep tree well watered.
  3. For Artificial Trees, Check for “Fire Resistant” Label. While this does not mean the tree if immune from catching fire, it does mean the tree is more resistant to flames and heat sources.
  4. Use Age Appropriate Decorations with Children. If you have a small child, avoid sharp or breakable decorations. Also, keep trimming s and small removable parts well out of reach of children as they can swallow or inhale the small pieces.

Safety Tips for Decorative Candles

  1. Do Not Leave Burning Candles Unintended. If you are leaving a room, extinguish all candle prior to exiting.
  2. Keep Candles on a Safe Surface. If a candle is burning, be sure it is on a stable surface where it cannot be knocked over by children or pets. Also, place your candle on a heat-resistant surface away from items that may catch fire, including plants, decorations, curtains, and furniture.

Safety Tips for Christmas Lights

  1. Only Use Lights that Have Been Tested. Both indoor and outdoor Christmas lights must meet strict standards that testing laboratories are able to verify. Tested lights will be marked with a seal or label.
  2. Check for Defects. Always check your lights for broken sockets, frayed or exposed wires, or loose connections. Even new lights should be examined. Throughout any damaged sets.
  3. Check Extension Cords for Damage. Damage may include cuts, fraying, or exposed wires.
  4. Use the Right Lights for the Job. Lights are designated as indoor or as outdoor. Make sure you are using the appropriate type of light when decorating. Also, always plug outdoor lights into a ground-fault circuit interrupter receptacle.

Safety Tips for Fireplaces

  1. Be Careful When Using “Fire Salts.” Fire salts are used to produce colored flames when thrown onto woods. They also contain heavy metals that can cause gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if ingested. Keep them out of reach from children.
  2. Keep Wrapping Paper Away From the Fireplace. Wrapping paper burns rapidly and intensely and may cause a flash fire. Never place them near a fireplace, and never put wrapping paper in the fire place.

Winter Safety Reminder: Coats and Car Seats

It is a common mistake which could prove deadly: putting your child in a car seat without removing his or her winter coat. With the arrival of the winter season, experts and safety advocates are working to remind parents that even though it may feel like your child is strapped snugly into their car seat, a large or puffy winter coat can result in a catastrophic car seat failure.

How Do I Know if My Child’s Coat or Jacket is Too Large for a Car Seat?

When a winter coat is too big or too puffy, it can leave your child’s car seat harness too loose to be effective in the event of a collision. When checking if your child’s coat creates a hazard, Consumer Reports recommends parents take the following steps:

  1. Put the coat on your child, sit him or her in their car seat, and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any part of the strap between your thumb and forefinger.
  2. Without loosening the harness, unhook it, and remove your child from the car seat. Take off your child’s coat, put him or her back in the car seat, and buckle them back up without tightening the harness.
  3. Try to pinch the straps between your thumb and forefinger. If you are able to pinch any part of the webbing successfully, the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

Of course, the safest option for your child is to simply not allow any coat to be worn while he or she is in a car seat.

What Are Some Car Seat-Safe Alternative to Coats?

Instead of having your child wear a coat while in a car seat, consider the following:

  • Put a blanket over small children to keep them warm as they ride in their car seat.
  • Use fitted covers that are approved by the car-seat manufacturer for your specific car seat. Approved covers will have been tested with the seat to ensure your child’s safety is not compromised.
  • For bigger children, simply turn the coat around and put it on backward (with arms through the sleeves) after the child is secured in their car seat. This will allow the coat to serve as a blanket resting on top of the harness.

Halloween Safety Tips: Avoiding Scary Accidents and Injuries

Children in costumes trick-or-treat on Halloween

Don’t get tricked into an accident this Halloween! Enjoy trick-or-treating and other festivities safely by following these Halloween tips.

Trick-or-Treat Safety for Children

The Texas Department of Public Safety has several suggestions for maintaining your child’s safety while trick-or-treating on Halloween:

  1. Before heading out to trick-or-treat in your area, check the route for sex offenders on the Department of Public Safety sex offender registry.
  2. Children should travel in groups with supervision from an adult.
  3. Adults and children should avoid entering the homes or vehicles of strangers along the route. Tell your children to avoid homes with their porch light off.
  4. Trick-or-treaters should wear costumes that are light colored or have reflective materials. Carrying a glow stick or light source helps drivers see them in the dark.
  5. Avoid costumes with fake guns or knives so they are not confused for real weapons in the dark.
  6. Consider costumes without masks. Masks can limit visibility and peripheral vision.
  7. After trick-or-treating is over, check your child’s candy thoroughly before allowing them to eat it. Discard any candy with broken or open wrappers.

Trick-or-Treat Safety for Drivers

As Halloween approaches, we urge all drivers to practice cautious and safe driving on Tuesday evening as children and adults hit the streets across the United States for trick-or-treating. Follow these tips to keep yourself and pedestrians safe this Halloween:

  • Do not drink and drive. Period. October 31st is no different than any other day — drunk driving is a careless, dangerous, life-threatening choice to yourself and others.
  • When traveling through areas with heavy foot traffic, drive below the posted speed limit to give yourself additional time in case a pedestrian suddenly appears in the road.
  • Be aware that children may not be focusing on their own safety while trick-or-treating. Stay alert and anticipate pedestrians walking on and across the road.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals and respect the pedestrian right of way.

Tips for Halloween Partygoers

Children are not the only segment of the population that can enjoy the festivities of Halloween. While children focus on trick-or-treating safely, adults should take responsible actions when planning on drinking alcohol at a Halloween party. Whether it’s a costume party at a person’s house, a bar, or restaurant, adults should follow these safety tips:

  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Designate a sober person as your driver at the end of the night. Alternatively, plan on taking a taxi or ridesharing service home.
  • Don’t let your friends or family drive home after drinking. Over to pay for a cab ride or rideshare service.
  • If you don’t plan on drinking on Halloween, offer to drive others home.
  • Hosting a Halloween party at your home? Do not let visitors who have drank alcohol drive home. In some cases, you may be held liable for an auto accident caused by a person who became inebriated under your roof. Arrange for guests to stay the night or to take a taxi or ridesharing service home.

Halloween Costume Safety Tips

Whether you are dressing up as a pirate, a celebrity, or an inanimate object, there are steps you can take to ensure that your costume won’t cause you any harm. Here are some tips from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • Wear costumes that are flame resistant or made of flame resistant materials, such as nylon and polyester.
  • Planning on trick-or-treating or walking around on Halloween? Make sure your costume is either brightly colored or contains a strip of reflective material so motorists can more easily spot you. Pedestrians are at an increased risk of being struck by a vehicle on Halloween night.
  • Decorative, colored, or non-prescription contact lenses should be avoided unless an eye care professional has been consulted. These lenses have not received FDA approval, can carry contaminants if not cleansed properly, and can cause damage to the eye due to not being fitted properly.
  • Test makeup on your arm before applying to the face to see if you are allergic. You may want to consider ditching face paint altogether and go with a hat instead. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics conducted a study that found traces of heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, in many Halloween face paints marketed to kids. These and other heavy metals, some considered carcinogenic, can cause serious health effects including reproductive toxicity and endocrine disruption.
  • Exercise caution when wearing a mask or a long costume, both of which can cause tripping hazards.

Fire Prevention Week 2017: Prevention and Planning for Fires

Wildfire engulfing fence and grass at night.

October 8th – 14th marks the 92nd annual Fire Prevention Week in the United States. During Fire Prevention Week, Americans are reminded of the dangers of fires and the importance of practicing fire prevention and planning every day.

Every year in the United States, thousands of people are affected by fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an estimated 365,500 house fires required assistance from a fire department. Of these home structure fires, more than 2,560 people died and more than 11,000 people were injured. Burn injuries can be catastrophic in nature, resulting in extensive scarring and years of surgical procedures.

In many cases, house fires and loss of life could be prevented. The NFPA urges Americans to take time this week to ensure that proper fire safety measures are being taken in their home and that an escape plan is in place if a fire does occur.

How to Prevent Fires in Your Home

Cooking equipment, heating equipment, and smoking materials are three of the top culprits in causing house fire-related injuries and deaths. Half of all deaths caused by home fires occur between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., despite only one out of five home fires reported during these hours.

Here are some tips to avoid fires from cooking equipment, heating equipment, and smoking materials:

  • Never leave a stove or oven unattended when in use. Always keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case a fire occurs.
  • Space heaters are the most common cause of heating-related fire injuries and deaths. Be sure to keep flammable materials such as furniture, clothes, and paper away from the heater at all times.
  • Most injuries and deaths caused by smoking materials in the home occur in the living room, family room, or bedroom. Choose to smoke outside and keep smoking materials (lighters, matches, cigarettes) out of the reach of children.

Although they cannot prevent a fire from occurring, smoke alarms are essential to alert you and your family in the event of a fire inside your home. The NFPA says that working smoke alarms in the home cut the risk of dying in house fires by 50 percent. In addition, three out of five home fire deaths between 2010 and 2014 occurred in houses without working smoke alarms.

Remember, it’s not enough to simply have smoke alarms in your home: they must be working! Test your smoke alarms once a month and replace the battery once a year.

Creating an Escape Plan for Your Family

In the unfortunate event of a fire in your home, a fire escape plan can help get you and your family out safely. The NFPA’s theme for Fire Prevention Week in 2017 is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!”

According to the NFPA, here are some safety tips on how to devise and execute an escape plan if a fire breaks out inside your home:

  • With your family, draw a map of your house and mark two exits from each room and a path outside from each exit.
  • Practice a fire drill with your family twice a year, conducting one drill at night and one during the day. Walk through your escape plan using different ways out of the house.
  • Make sure that exits are not blocked by pieces of furniture.
  • Show your children how to escape on their own in case you aren’t there to help them.
  • Pick a meeting spot outside of your house, and a safe distance away, to meet with your family after escaping.
  • Never return inside a burning building! There is no item inside that is worth more than your life.

According to NFPA, only one-third of all Americans have developed and practiced a fire escape plan. Oftentimes, there is less than 6 minutes before a house fire becomes life-threatening. Devising and walking through an escape plan with your family can help you evacuate quickly and increase your chances of avoiding serious injury and death.

Have you or a loved one suffered a severe burn injury due to someone else’s negligence? Learn more about your legal options in our blog post: Who can be sued in a burn case?

What You Should and Shouldn’t Do While Driving During a Solar Eclipse

On Monday, August 21st, the first solar eclipse in the United States since 1979 will occur. The full eclipse will be visible for a large portion of the United States, and it’s possible that there will be drivers on the road as it happens. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has provided the following tips on what you should and should not do to keep yourself safe if you’re in a vehicle during the eclipse.

What You Should Do While Driving During an Eclipse

  • Make sure you’re being especially aware of your surroundings while you’re driving. Many drivers might become distracted once the sky suddenly becomes darker during the eclipse, and they may not pay as much attention to the cars around them.
  • Watch out for pedestrians. A lot of people may try to find an open space to watch the eclipse near roadways, and if they aren’t careful they may get too close to oncoming cars.
  • If you can, pull off of the road and find a safe place to park your car as the eclipse occurs. This way you can safely watch the eclipse and avoid potential accidents.

What You Should NOT Do While Driving During an Eclipse

  • Don’t wear specialized solar eclipse glasses while you’re driving. Once the eclipse reaches totality, it will get dark out and the darkened lenses of the glasses lessen the visibility of other cars on the road.
  • In no way should you try to take pictures of the eclipse while you’re driving. This would be distracted driving and quite dangerous for yourself and those around you.
  • Avoid watching the eclipse while you’re driving. Looking away from the road at any point while you’re driving can be very dangerous and lead to serious accidents and injuries.

Picking Proper Safety Equipment for the Coming Solar Eclipse

There’s a lot of excitement across the country for the coming solar eclipse that will take place on August 21st, but there has also been a lot of deceptive and false advertising for eclipse glasses, which may injure some viewers.

Problematic Glasses Advertising

As people have been gearing up for the eclipse, so have companies that are selling “eclipse glasses” with a seal of approval from the International Organization for Standardization,  which sets standards for safety products. The problem, however, is that many brands are saying that their products have been approved by this organization when in fact they have not.

This has caused concern for the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and they have revised previous advice they had sent out about eclipse glasses because of this false advertising by many companies.

AAS spokesperson Rick Fienberg told the Tribune-Review that the problem is mostly with online vendors of glasses that don’t protect against things such as UV rays that can be harmful.

Suggested Consumer Action

The AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force has created a list of reputable glasses vendors as to make sure that people stay safe and don’t damage their eyesight while viewing the coming solar eclipse.

Viewers are always advised to check their glasses before looking at an eclipse to make sure that there aren’t any scratches or other defects. Doing so ensures that no harmful rays penetrate your eyes and cause vision issues.

How To Safely View the Upcoming Solar Eclipse

On August 21st of this year, there will be a total eclipse of the sun that will be visible in the United States. While solar eclipses are amazing, rare occurrences that many wish to see, they can also be extremely dangerous. During an eclipse, most of the face of the sun is blocked by the moon aligning perfectly with it, but people may stare at the partially eclipsed sun for too long and suffer from eye damage or even blindness. NASA has provided the following safety tips for viewers of the solar eclipse.

1. Wear Specialized Eclipse Glasses

There have been many cases of people getting eye damage by looking at the sun without protection or while wearing regular sunglasses. Most eyewear is nowhere near as strong as they need to be to prevent eye damage. Instead, viewers should be wearing specialized glasses called solar filters, which make it safe for people to view eclipses without the high risk for damaging their eyes.

2. Supervise Children

You should be constantly supervising children during solar eclipses as they may not understand the strength of the solar rays that they may be staring at. Keep them near and make sure that they wear their solar filters at all times during the eclipse.

3. Don’t Look At The Eclipse Through Unfiltered Lenses

Many people may be tempted to take off their solar filters in order to take a picture or look at the sun with binoculars. This, however, can prove to be extremely dangerous for your eyesight. Some unfiltered lenses may concentrate the amount of light that you are looking at through the lenses and can potentially damage your eyes even if you’re wearing solar filters. There are, though, some filters made for camera lenses which can allow photographers to take pictures, and which are advised should one choose to photograph the event.

4. Remove Solar Filters Only During Totality

There will be an extremely short period of time during the full solar eclipse when people may take off their filters without the risk of damaging their eyesight. This moment is called totality, which is when the moon is perfectly aligned with the sun and blocks a large amount of light. The moment when the moon moves and more sunlight is visible is when you should immediately put your solar filters back on.

Back To School Safety Tips For Students

As we approach the new school year, it’s a great time for parents to discuss safety with their children. Anything can happen once your children leave the house to go to school, so making sure they’re prepared for any incidents will keep them safe. The Red Cross has provided the following safety tips for students:

  1. Make Sure Students Are Boarding the Right Bus

Tell your child that they should check the bus they’re boarding to make sure they’re riding the correct one. They should look for signs or indicators that are usually on school buses, and then write the indicator down somewhere to verify it until they’ve memorized what bus they ride. They should also try to avoid walking too close to the bus behind it or in front of it, due to the fact that bus drivers may not be able to see them and drive forward or reverse, resulting in the injury of a child.

  1. Be Careful Walking Across the Road

Children don’t always pay attention to people or objects around them, so it’s very easy for them to get distracted and walk into a crosswalk. Teach your child to look left, then right, then left again before they cross the road to ensure their safety. They also need to be careful around parked cars right after school, as they may pull out of their parking spots quickly and not see children since they’re shorter than the rear window of a vehicle.

  1. Tell Teens To Drive Safely

When teenagers first learn to drive, they may do things that don’t seem very dangerous, but may lead to a deadly accidents. Tell teenagers that are starting to drive to always wear a seatbelt, keep their phone in a bag away from them so they won’t be tempted to text, and avoid eating breakfast or snacks while they’re driving to or from school.

  1. Keep Young Children Safe

If you are a parent of a young child you should make sure that your child knows the route to school. It’s best to walk your child to school every day for the first week so they don’t get lost and have time to adjust to their surroundings. It’s also a good idea to try to find another student that lives nearby to walk with your child, since this would make them feel less anxious about getting to school.

  1. Drive Safely To Protect Pedestrians

Adults are partially responsible for the safety of children in their communities. You should always keep your distance from a school bus when it’s dropping students off at stops. Also, if you see flashing red lights, drivers must stop on both sides of the road so that children may descend from the bus and cross the road safely.

School Zone Safety Tips

It’s the time of year when children are getting ready to go back to school. While this is an exciting time, it can also be dangerous for kids if drivers aren’t being careful. CBS reports that in the past decade, about a third of young pedestrian deaths occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., which is around the time when children leave school. You can do your part by following the safety tips below to keep the children in your community safe.

  1. Drive at a Safe Speed

It’s important to follow the speed limit signs that are posted in school zones. Even a reduction in speed of 10 mph can make the difference between a deadly and a survivable crash. Children may also run out into the road unexpectedly if they aren’t being watched, so remain vigilant anytime you’re near a school.

  1. Be Careful When Reversing

It can be difficult to spot children while reversing sometimes due to how small they are. You should double-check blind spots and look around your car a few times before attempting to back up out of a parking space.

  1. Watch For Children on Bikes or Skateboards

Many children and teens ride bicycles, skateboards, or scooters to and from school. Due to lack of experience, children may lack stability when riding bikes or skateboards and can fall over onto the road. If you see a child on a bike or skateboard, slow down and leave a bit of distance between your vehicle and the child.

  1. Come to a Complete Stop

It’s been shown in various studies that around one third of drivers don’t come to a complete stop when they get to stop signs in neighborhoods or school zones. It’s important to always come to a complete stop and check crosswalks before continuing to drive.

  1. Talk to your Children About Safety

As your children grow up and enter their teen years, it’s important to discuss road safety with them as they learn to drive. Statistics show that car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers, so you should make sure that your teenagers know the rules of the road and always drive safely near schools.

Top 5 Summer Cooking Safety Tips  

Cooking with friends and family over the summer is a fun activity for everyone. It’s important to know how to prepare everything you’re eating in a way that’ll keep it safe to eat. Below are some tips to help you make sure that your food doesn’t cause any sort of illness at a get-together.

  1. Monitor Food Temperature

While most people check the color of their food to see how well it’s cooked, a much better way to check is by using a thermometer. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell how much you should cook a piece of meat before it’s safe to eat, but using a thermometer takes all of the guess work out cooking.

  1. Don’t Leave Food Out For Long Periods of Time

If you’re having a cookout and you’re grilling meat products or you have other perishable goods out, make sure you’re keeping them out no longer than 2 hours. If the temperature outside is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, then food should be left out for only about an hour. As the outdoor temperature increases, so does the risk of bacteria growing in foods like meat, dairy products, and shellfish, so it’s best to keep track of how long food stay out.

  1. Rinse Produce

Many types of produce may have bacteria on the outside of them that they can spread to the other foods you in your fridge. Make sure you rinse all of your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before preparing them for meals or storing them in a refrigerator.

  1. Maintain Cleanliness

If you’re cooking with raw meat, always wash your hands and counters after handling it. You should be washing your hands whenever you touch raw meat, eggs, or fish. Remember to use warm water and antibacterial soap so that you don’t spread any bacteria around when you’re touching the other food you’re preparing for a meal.

  1. Separate Cooking Tools for Raw and Cooked Meats

When preparing raw meats on the grill, be sure to switch out plates and tools that have touched raw meats when you’re working with cooked meats. If you’ve used a spatula to transfer raw meat to the grill, wash it with dish soap or switch it out for a different one when you go back to flip it.

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