We hope you’re having a wonderful holiday week spending time with family and friends you hold dear.
However, the holidays can be a dangerous time with all the cooking, travel, Christmas decorating and Black Friday shopping.
More than 43 million Americans are expected to be on the roads this week. The National Safety Council estimates 436 people will die in traffic accidents over Thanksgiving holiday weekend and 46,600 people will be injured in car accidents.
The roadways aren’t the only danger this weekend.
Every year, 12,500 people wind up in hospital emergency rooms injuries, such as falls, cuts and shocks, related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Candles start about 11,600 fires each year, resulting in 150 deaths, 1,200 injuries and $173 million in property loss. Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of more than $10 million in property loss and damage, according to CSPC.
Every year, people are injured while shopping for Black Friday bargains by other overzealous bargain hunters.
Fierce winter weather this year has already caused 11 traffic deaths, half of them in Texas.
So, our message to you this Thanksgiving weekend is to be safe, as well as thankful.
Here are some Thankgiving travel tips from American Red Cross to ensure you arrive safely at your destination.
If traveling by car:
- Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels before you get on the road. Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
- If winter weather is present, bring pets/companion animals inside before you leave the house.
- Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Fill your gas tank, check the air pressure in your tires and make sure you have windshield fluid.
- Buckle up, slow down, don’t drink and drive, or text and drive.
- Make frequent stops on long trips. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and rest.
- If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.
If traveling by plane or by train:
- It’s flu season. If you’ve been sick or been in contact with someone who is sick, consider postponing your trip. You could be contagious for a week before symptoms appear.
- Remember that everything you touch has to be touched by someone else – luggage handlers, etc. Handle your own belongings as much as possible. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you. You can use them to wash your hands or wipe down surfaces such as armrests.
- Bring your own pillows and blankets – they can act as a shield against the seat itself.
- Avoid touching your face or eyes. If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your sleeve.
If your holiday plans include decorating for Christmas, heed these safety tips from CPSC:
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
- Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
- Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
- Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.
- Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
The National Crime Prevention cancel recommends the following strategies to avoid becoming a victim of crime while shopping on Black Friday:
- Do not buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.
- Shop online with companies you know and trust. Check a company’s background if you are not familiar with it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.
- Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.
- Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.
- Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
- Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
- Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
- Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.
- If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you get separated. Select a central meeting place and make sure they know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help
Signal 88, a personal security firm, also weighs in with these Black Friday shopping safety tips:
- When you arrive at a crowded place, don’t ignore signs or barricades,
- which are often placed to control a crowd.
- Proceed with caution when stores’ doors open; avoid running or pushing.
- Practice patience, as long lines can lead to short tempers. Expect to encounter potentially frustrating delays if you’re out on one of the major shopping days.
- Rather than participating in a verbal or physical altercation over a desired item, know when to walk away.
- Never leave your purse, wallet or shopping cart unattended.
- Consider using your pockets instead of your purse. Keep valuables close
- to your body.
- Walking with a buddy, especially in a dark parking lot, can be a theft deterrent.
- Lock purchases in the trunk of your car, where they’re out of view.
- Make sure your doors are locked and your car alarm is activated.
- If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, leave the area immediately.
- Contact a store employee, law enforcement or a security officer if you feel unsafe or threatened.
Stay safe this Thanksgiving.