Disasters and emergencies—fires, floods, storms and other hazards — can happen at any time, in any location. Launched in 2004, National Preparedness Month is FEMA’s national annual preparedness outreach to remind us all of the need to be prepared for such emergencies, whether evacuating and sheltering.
Nicole Hughes has a crucial message for parents and other adults: Don’t assume children are being supervised and kept safe from hazards just because there’s a lot of people around.
Hughes’ 3-year-old son drowned in a swimming pool after slipping out of a roomful of a dozen adults, half of whom were physicians.
“Without realizing it, subconsciously you’re letting your guard down when there’s a bunch of people around,” says Hughes, who now works with the American Academy of Pediatrics on water safety, in a New York Times article. “When ‘everybody’s watching the kid, then nobody’s watching.”
Her advice pertains not only to drowning prevention but to other summer injury hazards such as keeping children at least 3 feet away from grills and campfires.
Adults also need to remember that drowning remains a risk as children get older. Supervision is still essential, and no one should swim alone.
Most people use the gift of an extra hour given by the fall Daylight Saving Time change to catch a few extra Zzzs. Go for it—and when you get up, use another minute to test your alarms.
Ideally you should test all smoke alarms monthly, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. For sure, let the biannual time change be a great reminder. Even for smoke alarms that have long-life batteries—or are hard-wired—it’s still important to make sure the alarm is working. Not every single long-life battery will work for 10 years, and even hard-wired alarms can fail. Test your CO detectors too. They need to be replaced every 5-7 years.
While having a working smoke alarm is important, it’s just as important that everyone knows what to do if it goes off. Make sure everyone in your home knows to get moving right away, because you probably have less time than you think to escape.
When you plan your escape route, include where outside you will all meet. Your meeting place should be a safe distance from your home but where firefighters can see you. Choose something very specific that everyone can remember and find easily: a tree, a telephone pole, or mailbox.
Do you need to update your escape plan? Look around and think about what’s changed in the last 6 months or year. Has an older adult joined your household? Consider whether they should sleep in a room on the ground floor to make escape easier. If anyone in your household has diminished hearing, consider a type of smoke alarm that uses a low frequency, flashing light or vibration.
This year many people are welcoming a return to holiday gatherings. Will guests be staying over? Tell visitors to your home about your family’s fire escape plan, including your meeting place. Show overnight guests how to open deadbolts or security bars. When you or your children are staying overnight at other people’s homes, ask about their escape plan.
With so much stress in our daily lives,
it can seem overwhelming to add tasks for checking your home safety. The danger
is that we may keep putting them off. But safety strategies don’t have to take
a lot of time. In the months ahead we’ll be reminding you of simple but
effective safety checks you can take to keep yourself and your family safe:
Be sure you’re using sanitizers and disinfectants correctly, to make them safe and effective. Learn how here.
In December, the darkest month, holiday lights
and candles have always been hugely popular. This year, we’re even more
inclined to light the darkness. As early as September, stores were already
reporting strong sales of holiday lights and decorations. It’s only expected to
increase, as we retreat into our homes during the coronavirus surge in the
Decorating our homes with light can
bring great comfort. Just make sure to do it safely:
flameless battery-operated candles, which are becoming very widely available,
give a realistic glow, and can last longer than flaming candles.
you use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything
that might burn—that includes furniture, bedding, curtains and decorations. Put
them out before everyone leaves the room.
unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
overloading outlets. Flickering lights, tripped circuit breakers, and blown
fuses are warning signs. Don’t ignore them – unplug!
Find more simple steps to holiday candle
and light safety here.
In summer we all tend to kick
back and relax the rules a bit. It’s a great time of year, but to keep it safe
there are still a few rules worth keeping:
Always watch children when they’re in or near water. Pool Safely, a campaign launched by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to reduce childhood drownings, recommends designating an adult Water Watcher to supervise children in the water, even where there’s also a lifeguard. Watching should be their only task – they shouldn’t be reading, texting or playing games on their phone.
Looking for a game to keep young children occupied? Help Mikey Make It Out is a fun, interactive game that teaches life-saving home escape lessons. They can also read the storybook Mikey Makes a Mess online, in English or Spanish.
Leave fireworks to the pros, even where they’re legal. Here’s why.
While your fireplace isn’t getting used, call to schedule an annual chimney cleaning.
As cooking moves outside, enforce a “3-Foot Rule” just as you do for the stove. Keep children and pets at least three feet from the fire.
Summer is peak season for wildfires. Check the predicted risk for the area where you live (or plan to visit) here, and always stay tuned to local weather and news.
Find more tips about safe use of campfires, outdoor grills and firepits at flickitsafely.com.
Summer fun activities can get chaotic. To prevent falls, make sure you wipe up spills promptly, and remind everyone to pick up clutter, which can be a tripping hazard–especially toys. Get more fall prevention tips.
Wear a bike helmet, and make sure you and your children know the rules of the road.
Working from home, learning from home, or just staying home…We’ll all spending a lot more time at home. Today’s electrical demands can overburden the electrical system of your home, especially if it’s more than 40 years old and has older wiring, electrical systems, and devices.
Protect yourself and your family by making sure all electrical work in your home is done by a qualified electrician and following these tips from USFA:
Always plug major appliances–such as refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers–directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord with a major appliance.
Unplug small appliances when you’re not using them.
Keep lamps, light fixtures and light bulbs away from anything that can burn.
Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
Check electrical cords on appliances often. Replace cracked, damaged and loose electrical cords.
Don’t overload wall outlets.
Never force a three-prong cord into a two-slot outlet.
Install tamper-resistant electrical outlets if you have young children.
Use power strips that have internal overload protection.
As you’re counting down to the New Year, keep safety in mind. A warm bottle of Champagne (or any sparkling wine) poses a greater risk than a chilled one. According to the New York Times, Champagne bottles “contain more air pressure than that found in a car tire and can launch a cork at 50 miles per hour.” The cork of a warm bottle is more likely to pop strongly because the bubbles expand as the temperature rises, so chill that bubbly to at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit before opening it.
While Champagne cork injuries are not common, they can be serious and even cause permanent blindness. Perhaps the most famous victim was Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. On his wedding night a champagne cork hit his left eye, which eventually became blind. He began experimenting to make windshield wipers that worked the same way as the blinking of his eye, moving at intervals instead of a constant back-and-forth motion.
So when opening that bottle, point it at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and everyone else. Hold the cork down while you twist off the wire hood from the bottle. Put a cloth over the entire top of the bottle, then hold the cork and twist the bottle to ease it away the cork. And be sure you keep pointing it away from yourself. Most of the people who are hit directly in the eye by a cork while opening champagne were looking down into it to check their progress. Just keep turning and keep that towel on.
Most families consider their pets part of their family, and we love sharing holidays with family. But many holiday traditions can be harmful to our four-legged family members. The American Kennel Club provides these tips:
Avoid decorating with food, like popcorn or cranberry strands, because they can cause upset stomachs if eaten by your pets.
Be aware of the pet hazards of Christmas trees. Don’t let your pet drink the water in a natural tree stand, which can cause stomach irritation or contain poisonous plant food. Also place sparkly ornaments that can catch your dog’s eye higher up on your tree where they can’t be reached, because eating one can cause major problems. You may want to consider putting a gate around the tree if you have a persistent pet.
Some of the holiday foods that humans love can make our pets ill. Keep them away from chocolate, butter, turkey skin, fat and candy.
The Animal Poison Control Hotline reminds us that: “While poinsettias are commonly “hyped” as poisonous plants, they rarely are, and the poisoning is greatly exaggerated…medical treatment is rarely necessary unless clinical signs are severe.” Still, you’ll want to avoid the “mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea” that can occur when it’s ingested, so keep these and other holiday plants out of reach of pets.