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.

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