With travel around the holiday season (starting Thanksgiving) forecasted to rebound 13% from last year, many Americans are ready to reunite with loved ones for the holidays. However, the year-end holidays can be a time filled with many potential hazards in and around the home.
“Since safety is at the heart of what we do at AAA, we want to share a few important reminders to keep everyone safe throughout the holiday season,” Meredith Mitts, spokesperson, AAA-The Auto Club Group. “The holidays can quickly turn tragic if you’re not careful. Whether you’re in the kitchen or behind the wheel, AAA urges you to be patient, avoid distractions and pay close attention to your surroundings.”
Cooking is the leading cause of all residential building fires and injuries, with Thanksgiving being the worst day of the year followed closely behind by Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The number one cause of cooking fires is leaving the kitchen unattended – something that’s easily avoided. A few key steps can keep you, your home, and your loved ones safe.
- Have someone on cooking duty at all times. If you have to leave, turn off cooking equipment first.
- Limit distractions by planning television time, video chats, chores, and other activities outside of meal preparation time.
- Smother grease fires with a metal lid or baking soda. Never use water. Make sure to turn off the heat first.
- If a fire starts in the oven, turn off the heat and keep the oven door closed.
- Everyone loves hanging out in the kitchen, which can lead to bumps, spills, and other injuries – especially when kids are involved. To minimize accidents and divert traffic, put snacks, games, and toys in another room.
- If you are sleepy or have consumed too much alcohol, step away from cooking and designate a “driver” to take the lead.
- Keep dish towels, oven mitts, paper products, and other flammable materials away from heat.
- Have a fully functional fire extinguisher handy for emergencies.
Potential holiday fire hazards are not isolated to the kitchen. Holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees can greatly increase fire risk, if you’re not careful. Between 2015-2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year and there were another 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half of home Christmas tree fires. Nearly one in five Christmas tree fires were started by decorative lights, and candles caused 45 percent of home decoration fires in December.
Knowing this, AAA recommends:
- Inspect your holiday lights for frayed wires, broken bulbs or loose connections.
- Proactively place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat source.
- Remove anything flammable from the area around a candles, place them in jars, glasses, or on ceramic plates when possible to keep the flame more enclosed.
- Double-check smoke detectors, ensuring batteries are fresh and the detector is functioning
- Unplug and Snuff lights, candles and fires before leaving the room or house for extended periods of time or going to bed for the night.
During this time of year, many holiday hazards also exist outside of the home. Another common hazard that occurs throughout the holiday season is theft. Around this time of year theft can come in many forms, including home break-ins, packages stolen from porches, vehicle thefts and even vehicles being broken into. If valuables, such as shopping bags and gifts, are left in plain sight it can be attractive to smash-and-grab burglars.
“When leaving your vehicle in a parking lot, make sure shopping bags and gifts are not visible through the car window,” added Mitts. “Putting your bags in the trunk or another place where they are not visible can help prevent vehicle break-ins.”
Busy parking lots are another holiday hazard. It’s important to be aware and focused while traveling through parking lots to help avoid collisions. Also, traffic on the roadways is more likely to increase during this time of year, whether it’s running holiday errands or traveling on the highway to visit family and loved ones. AAA recommends always limiting distractions when driving – especially important in heavy traffic or congested areas – and also check weather forecasts to be aware of any wintry weather that may occur.
Here are a few additional tips to help you avoid distractions out on the roadways”
- Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
- Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
- Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
- Pull over. if you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
- Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
- Activate Do Not Disturb. Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.