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Winter and Disaster Prep

6 Ways to Celebrate Safely This Holiday Season

Deborah A.P. Hersman

President and CEO, National Safety Council

Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is one of America’s favorites. For me, the song is a reminder of what truly is most important in life: family and the health and wellbeing of loved ones.

Around the holidays, you can help keep them safe, in big and small ways.

1. Get your rest

Start by making time to rest – even when shopping, family gatherings and work parties add extra hustle-and-bustle to your schedule. To achieve peak mental and physical performance, adults need seven hours of sleep each day. You are three times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued, so plan your drive time when you are well-rested and never push yourself to drive through the night to get to your destination.

2. Focus while driving

More than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and garage structures annually, resulting in more than 500 deaths and more than 60,000 injuries. Auto insurers report claims spike during the holiday shopping season. Distraction is one of the leading causes of parking lot incidents. In a National Safety Council public opinion poll, 66 percent of drivers said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots. Using the “do not disturb” or an app to block distracting texts and calls is one way to stay focused on driving.

3. Check the medicine cabinet

In the United States, one person dies every 24 minutes from a prescription opioid overdose. Research indicates 60 percent of Americans have opioids from prior prescriptions in their homes, and more than half of people who misuse opioid pain relievers obtain them from a friend or family member. Locate a drug take-back program near you and dispose of your unused medications.

4. Employ fire safety

Fire risk increases as holiday candles and fireplaces are used more frequently. In December, 11 percent of home fires begin with candles compared to 4 percent the rest of the year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Working smoke alarms cut the chances of dying in a home fire in half. Plan and practice your escape route and agree on a meeting place outside your home.

5. Shovel smart

Snow shoveling is linked to thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths every year. Push snow, rather than lifting it, to ease strain. Cold weather can constrict arteries and tax the heart. People over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful.

6. Think before you climb

Choose the right ladder when stringing lights and hanging decorations. How high do you need to reach? Is it an indoor or outdoor job? Nearly 15,000 people are injured a year in home ladder incidents. Falls are the leading cause of death in older adults.

I think we can agree the best presents — like the best songs — stand the test of time. Put the gift of safety at the top of your playlist when you have all of your loved ones home this holiday season.

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