Staying Safe This Holiday Season

John M Porter, MD

John M Porter, MD

The holiday season is in full swing. But, nothing can ruin a holiday celebration quicker than a trip to the hospital. It only takes a few careless moments for tragedy to strike. Paying attention to safety will ensure a happy holiday season now and for years to come.

It’s not uncommon to hear stories about tragic fires at this time of year, leading to loss of homes and lives. Many people like to use candles as part of their holiday decorations. Always keep candles (and matches) away from flammable items such as drapes, and out of reach for kids and pets. Blow out candles when leaving the room or going to sleep. Use proper candle holders to prevent tipping. People are also more likely to use their fireplaces this time of year. It is good practice to clean fireplaces and chimneys regularly. Only burn items designated for indoor fireplaces, and always keep protective glass or screens in place whenever the fireplace is in use.

It is important to make sure your seasonal decorations do not become a fire hazard. Check lights for damage prior to use. Make sure to use the appropriate lights for the environment; do not use indoor lights outside. Unplug all lights when leaving the house or going to bed. When using extension cords, avoid the temptation to string together many extension cords. This could cause electrical overload leading to a fire. Inspect cords for damage before using, and make sure cords are appropriate for the environment and use. Indoor extension cords should never be used outdoors.

If you have a live Christmas tree, water it often to reduce the risk of it catching fire. Secure the tree in a proper base so it cannot fall over. Make sure all ornaments are properly secured and not damaged or breakable.

Every home should have properly installed working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test these detectors at least once a month and regularly replace the batteries. Make sure detectors are on every level of the house and install additional ones if necessary.

Falls are a leading cause of trips to the Emergency Department or Trauma Center. When using a ladder to hang decorations this holiday season, use one of appropriate height for the task. Do not stand on furniture to reach high places. Only use ladders on flat surfaces and have a spotter when climbing more than four feet off the ground.

More people are on the roads during the holiday season. Whether you are going a short distance or across country, make sure every passenger wears a seat belt. If you are going to a party, select a designated driver before leaving for the party. If you are hosting, make sure no one leaves if they have had too much to drink. Eliminate distracted driving, including texting and the use of any hand held devices. If a GPS is necessary, start the route prior to leaving and keep the device mounted while moving.

By following these tips, you can enjoy a safe holiday season.


John M. Porter, MD, is Head of the Division of Trauma Surgery and Director of Center for Trauma Services at Cooper University Health Care. Learn more about our Level 1 Trauma Center by clicking here.

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