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NEWS | Dec. 16, 2011

Holiday practices require safety measures

By Alex Salinas Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

The holidays, during which many preventable accidents occur, are no time to rest on laurels, advised the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Safety Office. Even the most prepared must be ready to practice general holiday safety to ensure they, their family and friends are protected.

Much of the nation scrambles to hop in a plane or car to visit loved ones. For drivers especially, "winter weather - snow, ice, or wet, slippery roads - creates a great challenge," Tech. Sgt. David Roller, JBSA-Randolph NCO in charge of ground safety, said.

"Knowing how to handle road conditions is probably the most vital inclement weather factor," Roller said.

Linda Howlett, JBSA-Randolph ground safety manager, said more people on the road with longer road trips means there will be a spike in road hazards.
"There's greater exposure to danger all around," she said.

Proper winter weather driving techniques include decreasing vehicle speed and leaving three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you; breaking gently to avoid skidding; using low gears to keep traction; not using cruise control or overdrive on wet and icy roads; turning and accelerating slowly to avoid sliding; and not using your cellphone while driving.

The holiday season includes people bringing trees inside their homes to decorate.

"Before you string up a single strand of lights on the tree, be it real or artificial, carefully look for cracked cords, frayed ends or loose connections," Roller said. "The combination of shortages in electrical lights and a tinder-dry tree can be deadly. There are 250 Christmas tree fires and 14 related deaths each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. So, keep your tree well-watered and keep your house from burning down."

Other Christmas tree safety tips include replacing strands of lights without fuses; replacing burned out bulbs; using the correct wattage of bulbs; plugging outdoor lights into a ground fault interrupter outlet to reduce the risk of shortages and shocks; and carefully handling tree pine needles and decoration pins with sharp tips.

Decoration safety should also extend beyond the home's interior. A more prominent, and visible, expression of the holidays are homes that display Christmas lights and other decorations.

When setting up Christmas lights, ladders are heavily used, especially for two-story homes, and homeowners should practice safety first.

"Ladder accidents injure professionals and non-professionals daily and the sad part is most of the injuries could have been prevented," Roller said.
Gift giving, another holiday tradition, also warrants safe practicing.

"For many children, the holiday season means one thing: toys," Roller said. "Each year, an estimated 169,300 toy-related injuries in children ages 14 years and younger are treated in hospital emergency rooms in the United States. While federal toy safety standards have greatly improved since 2008, shoppers should still read labels on toys to ensure the toy is age-appropriate and follow toy safety guidelines."