By Emma Wunsch
You know fall is here when the kids get back on the big yellow bus, the leaves pile up, and the mornings are chilly enough for a sweater. In addition to trips to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch, autumn comes with its own set of safety issues. Here are some tips from the experts for a safe season with your family.
For many Upper Valley families, fall is synonymous with football. Hanover (N.H.) Parks & Recreation offers flag and tackle football (and many other sport programs) during its fall recreation season.
To keep participants safe, it’s mandatory that an EMT is present at all Hanover Parks & Recreation tackle football games. Since concussions and other head injuries are a major concern for many parents, Director Hank Tenney stresses the scrutiny his department’s helmets undergo every year. All football equipment is provided for players. Helmets undergo a rigorous reconditioning process and are upgraded to meet safety standards. Helmets that do not pass are rejected. The EMTs present during games are super-vigilant about kids’ safety — maybe the reason why there has never been a major injury during Tenney’s 40-year tenure at Hanover Parks & Recreation. To make sure your children are safe playing football, even if it’s just a casual game with friends, parents should make sure they are properly protected.
As kids decide on costumes and dream about candy, the weeks leading up to Halloween can be an exciting time. But parents need to be aware of the dangers of Halloween, too.
Officer Charles Rataj of the Norwich (Vt.) Police Department suggests parents use common sense when it comes to having a safe Halloween. Rataj says kids who are young enough to dress up and trick or treat should absolutely “have an escort.” If your child is old enough to be out trick or treating unattended, then he or she is probably too old to be trick or treating. Rataj thinks it is fine for 15-year-old to chaperone a younger sibling or friend, but teens in masks can get into trouble.
Officer Rataj also says parents should be logical about their children’s costumes. A mask may look cool, but a child needs to be able to see so they don’t trip or inadvertently walk into the road. Parents and kids should have flashlights or reflective tape so they, too, are visible. Norwich gives away chemical snap-and-glow necklaces so kids can be more visible and still have free hands to take candy.
For optimum safety, Officer Rataj suggests staying close to home. If you need to travel, he suggests picking a familiar neighborhood with well-lit streets. Since there will be houses “with complete strangers, parents need to stay alert to their child’s whereabouts and well being.” Although it might be tempting, you don’t want to get lost in conversation with another parent while your kid rings the doorbell at an unfamiliar house.
Once you and your child head home, check and double-check every piece of candy. In the flurry of treats, you want to make certain nothing dangerous has been slipped in. Additionally, Officer Rataj recommends disposing of anything not factory wrapped and sealed. It is fine to politely take an apple or cookie, but treats like that should never be consumed. He also advises reinforcing the usual safety measures with your kids. Show them you’re inspecting the candy and remind them, other than this one day, they should never accept candy from strangers.
If you would rather not trick-or-treat door-to-door, but still want to have your child dress up and get candy, trick-or-treating at The Powerhouse Mall in West Lebanon, N.H., is a safe, well-lit and fun option. There’s also the popular Halloween Open House at the Lebanon Fire Department. This event has been running since the mid-1990s and is put on by the Lebanon Permanent Firefighters Association and the Lebanon Fire Department. Children get to visit with the firefighters, look at the firetrucks and eat candy; pizza and other refreshments are free.
Fire Drills and Smoke Detectors
Your child might come home with a fireman’s hat after a trip to the local fire department, but it’s important for families to practice fire safety as well. The Lebanon Fire Department suggests that families practice home fire drills both during the day and at night on a regular basis. Children as young as three years old can follow a fire escape plan if they have practiced it. Parents should make sure that all exits are kept clear of toys and other items so they are always passable. A child’s bedroom door should always be kept closed to prevent smoke from overpowering a child. Since the gear firefighters wear can appear scary to some children, the Lebanon Fire Department recommends parents teach their children not to hide from firefighters. Visiting a local fire station can provide children an opportunity to see firefighters in full gear.
Parents should test carbon monoxide and smoke detectors at least monthly. The same day the detectors are tested is a good time to practice the home fire escape plan. Batteries should be replaced at least once per year in detectors that use a standard 9-volt battery. Detectors that use a 10-year lithium battery cannot have the battery replaced and the detector must be replaced at the end of the 10 years.
By Brad Salzmann
Fire is the biggest disaster threat to American families. Fires are devastating and can be deadly because they spread very quickly. In less than 30 seconds, a small fire can get out of control. In just two minutes a small fire can become life threatening and, in just five minutes, a house can be fully engulfed in flames. Besides flames, fires produce heat, smoke and poisonous gases that kill more people than flames do. Unlike many disasters, home fires can often be prevented.
Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. Most are stovetop fires that occur during unattended cooking. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) lists some “dos” and “don’ts” to prevent cooking fires.
- Stay alert
- Stay in the kitchen while cooking
- Check cooking regularly; use a timer
- Cook if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol
- Leave the kitchen while cooking
- Leave anything flammable near your stove top
If you have a cooking fire, get out, close the door behind you and call 9-1-1 after you leave. If you try to fight the fire, get others out first and make sure you have an exit. Use a lid to smother small grease fires; slide the lid over the pan and turn the stove off. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and leave the oven door closed.
Brad Salzmann is an orthopedics physician assistant at Gifford in Randolph, Vt. He also has a master’s degree in disaster medicine and management, and serves as part of the national Disaster Medical Assistance Team based in Worcester, Mass.