This is the time of year when we all head off to be with family and friends for the holidays. I know the activities of TEEX’s employees and clients differ greatly over the break. Many will remain here in the Brazos Valley, while others will travel throughout the United States and beyond. Personally, I have a home remodeling project that will occupy much of my time. No matter what we do, returning to TEEX safely in the New Year should be our highest priority. I’m going to take just a few moments to address some holiday safety tips, which are great to keep in mind not only during the holidays but throughout the year.
Whether traveling by car or air, rule number one is to allow extra time for the journey. You should plan to avoid the heaviest travel times if at all possible. If you could be in wintry conditions, carry a road emergency kit including flares, a blanket, a first aid kit, water and snacks. A small shovel is also handy to have, and kitty litter works well under the wheels to increase traction. It’s also good to have health insurance information available if the worst should happen. If you have children under 13, the best place for them is in the back seat of the car. Everyone on board should ride upright, without leaning against the doors or dash. Never allow anyone to ride unrestrained. Defensive driving is the key, and because State Highway 6 truly does run both ways, take your time and stay in your lane.
If traveling by air, children under 40 pounds should be in an FAA-approved child safety seat. All passengers should make sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and you should bring activities to keep everyone occupied during the flight. Further air-travel tips can be found at TSA’s Holiday Travel Website.
Christmas also brings some unique and beautiful safety hazards. These include the Christmas tree, indoor and outdoor lighting and decorations. Don’t place your tree close to heaters or air vents. The vents can dry out the tree and turn it into fuel. Don’t put it up too early or leave it up too late, and make sure you keep the tree stand full of water at all times. You should inspect your holiday lights for frays or bare spots in the insulation, and do not overload electrical outlets. Wires that are warm to the touch are a bad sign. And don’t leave Christmas lights illuminated and unattended.
Decorations must be non-combustible or flame resistant. This is not the 1800’s. Never use lighted candles to decorate a tree, and place all other decorative candles where they won’t be knocked over. If there will be small children in the home, avoid decorations that are sharp, breakable or have removable parts, and avoid decorations that resemble candy or food. Remember to remove wrapping paper, bags, ribbons and bows from the tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items are a choking hazard for small children and can cause a fire if near an open flame.
Toys should be appropriate for the age of the child, and toys requiring access to an electrical outlet should be avoided for children under age 10. As with the decorations, avoid small toys that could pose a choking hazard, as well as un-inflated or broken balloons, strings and ribbons.
Finally, there is more danger from food than just increasing your waistline. On the buffet line, foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours, and raw foods MUST be washed and fully cooked. Be sure to keep hot foods and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables where they can be easily knocked over by a child’s curious hands. You should wash your hands frequently, and if cooking, don’t double dip.
These are just a few tips for a safe holiday season. Be safe, have fun, and we’ll see you in 2010.
Charley Todd is the associate agency director for the Texas Engineering Extension Service.