Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Message From TEEX Director Gary Sera

Seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating the new millennium. Yet, here we are about to enter into its second decade. The world has changed in many ways during this time, and some debate whether it’s for better or for worse. Social networking is here to stay, with today's youth now strongly identifying and connecting through this medium. The term Green now means something more than money—it’s a sustainable way to contribute to your bottom line. Finally, we have an economy that is about as fickle as it can be. It seems to be getting better, but then lingers on like a bad cold that doesn’t want to go away.

What always seems to be a refreshing constant is the spirit of this season. This is the time when friends and family can share peace and love, and where the world seems to slow down. It is a time when we can all actually say, “Let's wait until next year to work on that.” We can all actually take a deep breath as we prepare to soar into the New Year with new hope and renewed energy. Here is wishing you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous new year.

Gary Sera is director of the Texas Engineering Extension Service and invites your comments.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TEEX Holiday Safety 2010

For many of us, today is the last official day of work in 2010. The Aggies have already left College Station, and many of us will travel for the holidays. With this in mind, please take a moment to review these holiday travel tips.

 Whether traveling by car or air, rule number one is to allow extra time for the journey. Plan to avoid the heaviest travel times, if at all possible. If driving 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.

Sometimes we forget how international TEEX has become. My safety note early in December stressed winter driving safety. Our instructors in Abu Dhabi responded, saying they anticipate no cold weather driving problems, but sand storms and camel collisions are at an all time high. So, slow down for reduced visibility and traffic, whether it’s sand or snow, cars or camels.

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. Again, give yourselves plenty of time for check-in and security screening. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and bring activities to keep everyone occupied during the flight. Further air-travel tips can be found at TSA’s Holiday Travel Website.

It’s also good to have health insurance information available when traveling, just in case it’s needed.

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 too 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.

Inspect your holiday lights for frayed or bare spots in the insulation, and do not overload electrical outlets. Wires should not be warm when you touch them. Don’t leave Christmas lights illuminated and unattended.

This video is a great example of how quickly a dry Christmas Tree can burn.

Decorations should be non-combustible or flame resistant. Never use lighted candles to decorate a tree. And, place all other decorative candles where they won’t be knocked over by people or pets.

Remember to remove wrapping paper, bags, ribbons and bows from the tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items can cause a fire if near an open flame. Don’t burn wrapping paper in the fireplace as this can cause chimney fires.

If there will be small children in the home, avoid decorations that are sharp, breakable or have removable parts because they are a choking hazard. Avoid decorations that resemble candy or food.

Toys should be appropriate for the child’s age, 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 deflated or broken balloons, strings and ribbons.

It’s also important to remember food safety over the holidays. On the never-ending buffet, foods requiring refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours. 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 or your clumsy uncle. Wash your hands frequently, and if cooking, don’t double dip!

We’re posting and tweeting safety tips as well as other TEEX news on our Facebook & Twitter Pages. You can also find Safety Links on the TEEX Website.

Travel safely, have a great holiday and we’ll see you in 2011.

Charley Todd is the associate agency director for the Texas Engineering Extension Service.