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Keeping Your Family and Home Safe This Holiday Season

People making Holiday Mail for Heroes cards
By observing these tips, your celebrations will remain safe and festive for everyone.

The holidays are upon us. And nothing can ruin the spirit of good cheer like a trip to the emergency room. Or standing out in the street watching firefighters enter your home with hoses. So, in the interest of keeping the season merry and bright, here are some important safety tips that sometimes go overlooked.
Poisonous Hazards
Keep harmful plants away from children and pets. Two very popular plants during the holiday season are poinsettias and mistletoe. Both are poisonous to humans and animals if eaten. Chocolate is also more commonly kept out during the holidays. It is lethal for cats and can be poisonous for dogs, giving them at the very least an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhea.
Choking, Suffocation, and Strangulation Hazards
Keep things like small parts, batteries, plastic bags, and strands of tree lights away from young children. Child safety is good advice at any time of year but holiday gift giving makes it an even more pressing issue. Youngsters, and those young-at-heart, tend to get caught up in the festive excitement and may not pay attention to possible hazards.
Food Allergies
When sharing your holiday cookies and other home-baked goodies, be mindful of those who may have food allergies. Wheat, dairy, and nuts are the most common culprits.  Nuts in particular can trigger deadly allergic reactions. So, if you share your goodies with anyone whose medical history is unfamiliar to you, let them know about ingredients that may have the potential for triggering an allergic reaction.
Darkness and Reduced Visibility
It gets dark early in these winter months. Be careful while you’re walking, especially when crossing streets. Drivers tend to be both more distracted and more rushed at this time of year. Reduced visibility and more frequent bad weather also make the situation more dangerous for everyone.  If possible, wear bright clothing at night to increase your visibility to drivers.
Dried Pine Needles
To help maintain your tree’s freshness and prevent the dreaded needle drop, keep it well watered.  Check the water level daily.  You’ll need to replenish the water more frequently during the first few days the tree is up.  If you can, cut another inch off the bottom of the trunk before you put it in the tree stand.  This fresh cut removes the seal the tree makes after it is initially cut.  The newer cut allows the tree to absorb more water easier.  The more water, the fresher the tree and its needles will stay.  Keep the tree outside until you are ready to decorate. The cold weather will also help to preserve it. Even better, get a tree that can be replanted once the season is over.
Dried pine needles are nature’s perfect tinder. If your tree catches fire, get everyone out immediately! Don't try to contain or control the fire yourself.
Smoke Detector
The recent change to Daylight Saving Time is a perfect reminder to put fresh batteries in your smoke detectors. With all the extra hazards that abound at this time of year, you may be thankful that you did.  Change the batteries again in spring when we leap forward by moving the clocks ahead.
Hot Oil
If you plan to deep fry a turkey, do so outside and well away from building structures. The National Safety Council advises 10 feet as a minimum. Watch for grease splatter! If the turkey has any water or ice when it is lowered into the hot oil, the oil will immediately start splattering violently. This can cause severe burns, even through heavy clothing, and may start a fire.
Other Fire Dangers
Has it been a while since your chimney was swept and professionally cleaned? It should be done about every two years, at minimum. Soot and carbon buildup can spark a fire or clog the chimney, forcing smoke back into your home.  Likewise, whether it's for a menorah or just for ambiance, keep candles away from draperies, upholstery, children and pets.  Never leave a fire in the fireplace or candles burning unattended.
With some thoughtful preparation and by observing these tips, your celebrations will remain safe and festive for everyone.  Lastly, remember to be kind. A little cheer and goodwill are welcome gifts for us all.