The holidays are a happy time of year, but according to the National Insurance Institute, it is the time of year with the highest incidence of fire and theft. Whether you’re a senior or caring for a senior, there are precautions that can and should be taken to make this holiday a safe and enjoyable one for everyone.
Here are our tips to help you and your loved ones stay as safe as possible this holiday season:
- If you decorate a tree, only use lights designated for that purpose (low heat, LED lights). Only buy lights that are designated as approved by the UL testing laboratory. Unplug all lights when you go to bed or when you’re not at home. Don’t overload the circuits. Never use candles to decorate a tree. Keep all candles away from combustible objects. Candles should never be left burning unattended and should always be out of reach of children and pets.
- If you use a fresh-cut tree, the stand needs to be securely placed and away from any heat sources. Don’t allow a tree to block any exits. Keep water in the base at all times. If you opt for an artificial tree, it needs to be labeled as being fire retardant.
- If you’re having a house party, there should be designated drivers for any of your guests who will be drinking alcohol. If you have the room, offer your guests a place to stay so no one has to worry about braving the roads after a night of fun with friends. Even if your home doesn’t have guest rooms available, turn the living room into an area where guests can grab blankets and pillows or even air mattresses and simply “camp out.”
- Do you use a fireplace? If so, the chimney needs to be inspected annually, prior to its first use of the season. Don’t burn items other than wood. Keep a grate in front of the fireplace to catch errant sparks. If you want to hang your stockings on the fireplace mantle, don’t use the fireplace for fires. If you heat the home with a wood stove it needs to have been inspected by the local fire marshal and must adhere to safety guidelines for venting and placement. Its chimney and flue must be inspected prior to its first use of the season and you must not burn anything in it other than wood.
- Using a space heater is an efficient way to heat a small space in one area of the house and can save money over having to heat the entire home. Space heaters need to be placed at least three feet away from any combustible materials (that includes couches and curtains) and should never block a walkway or an exit. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room, go to bed and when you leave the house. Do not use the heater to dry wet mittens or coats.
- If you’re charged with preparing the holiday meals, do so with care. Don’t wear loose fitting clothing when you’re around the stove or oven. Make certain pot handles are always turned in. Keep children and pets out of the kitchen. Unplug appliances when they’re not in use. Don’t leave food on the stove cooking unattended.
- When you’re heading out to visit family, wear your seat belt. All children must be properly buckled in or in approved safety seats. Don’t text and drive. Don’t take phone calls while you’re behind the wheel.
- Have an emergency kit in the trunk of your car. The kit should contain blankets, non perishable foods, water, additional clothing that you can layer on and flares. Keep a first aid kit in your car that contains pain relievers, band aids, first aid cream and gauze. Don’t leave home without bringing medications that you take daily; if you’re trapped in a storm and can’t make it home, you need to have access to your medications.
- Keep a winter preparedness kit in your home as well. This kit should contain bottled water and non perishable foods. Know where your additional blankets are and have a space where the family can all huddle together in one room to make certain everyone is safe. Have some board games, flashlights and battery operated lanterns available in case night falls and you have to keep unruly children entertained.
- If you’re a caregiver for an elderly family member, make certain you have a way to get in touch with them in the event of a weather emergency. There should be a plan in place as to where they will weather a storm or potential power outage. Do not wait until the storm arrives to make arrangements. If they insist on remaining in the home, a shopping trip should be arranged to stock the house with items they would need. Remember, having a cell phone is great but in the midst of a wide spread power outage or weather emergency, cell towers are not always reliable. Having the home equipped with a home medical alert device will provide peace of mind and access to medical care, if necessary during the emergency. If you’re bringing your elderly loved one to your home for the holidays, call us to provide the new address and length of stay. Be sure that you bring the medical alert device and pendant.
Pre-planning, common sense and label reading can lead to a happy, healthy, holiday season!