Put safety first during the holiday season

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Grace Lee)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — The holiday season is known for being a time of giving and cheer, but it can also be one of the most dangerous times of year if the proper safety precautions aren’t taken.

“Each year there are approximately 350 driving fatalities during Christmas and 350 driving fatalities on New Year’s Day,” said Ben Bruce, 56th Fighter Wing occupational safety manager. “The biggest threat on the roadways is distracted driving right now, so please wear your seatbelt, drive sober and drive sane.”

Bruce advises being prepared before embarking on a long-distance drive.

“If you’re driving long distance I would recommend you pack an emergency kit including jumper cables, a spare tire, an extra gallon or two of oil and first aid kit,” Bruce said. “I advocate people follow the acronym ‘FAT’ which stands for fluids, air, and tires, meaning check your fluids, air pressure, and tires to ensure they aren’t bad.”

Additionally, one should take breaks once an hour for five minutes, getting out of the car and stretching before getting back on the road, Bruce said. Furthermore, one should not drive for more than 10 hours at a time.

Practice safe driving techniques when coming across inclement road conditions.

“The main thing when encountering snow or ice is slow down,” said Staff Sgt. Jason De Jesus, 56th FW occupational safety specialist. “If you experience sliding, come off the accelerator, don’t touch the brakes, and try to maintain control of the vehicle.”

While a house strung with Christmas lights spreads holiday cheer, putting them up can be dangerous.

“The two areas people get in trouble is either falling off the ladder because they’re overextending themselves and not moving the ladder, or putting up bad Christmas lights and maybe getting electrocuted,” Bruce said. “That’s why if you’re up on the roof use a good ladder that’s going to reach the top of the roof.

The ladder should extend two or three rungs above the roof so that it’s sticking up. I would also ask someone to support the ladder. If you’re going to string lights then you should inspect the lights before putting them up, make sure the bulbs are not broken, the connections are good, they’re not corroded and there are no breaks in the wire. All it takes is a little patience, a little safety and a little common sense.

Overall, putting up lights should be a two-person operation.”

Christmas trees should be inspected for liveliness before being brought in the house.

“A lot of times people still use traditional live trees and one of the things you need to do is make sure your tree is still alive, because you don’t want dead branches coming in contact with hot bulbs,” Bruce said. “So the one thing you want to do is keep your tree alive by choosing a tree that’s fresh and green. You can also check the needles to make sure it has a little bounce to it so they’re not dry, brittle and falling off the tree.”

Bruce also recommends watering the tree every day, keeping it at least three feet away from any heat source and ensuring it isn’t blocking any exits.

Similarly, artificial trees should be inspected.

“The artificial trees are easier but you still need to watch out for the lighting and ensure they’re not defective, because it can cause a fire or electrocute you,” Bruce said.

Just like the holidays are known for home cooked meals and tasty food, it’s also a time when adults drink alcohol and attend holiday parties and other events.

“If you’re going to a holiday party as a guest I would recommend you have a designated driver or you use the 0-0-1-3 approach which stands for zero underage drinking, to have a zero driving under the influence mindset, you’ll drink one drink an hour and three drinks maximum,” Bruce said. “As a responsible adult you want to enjoy the spirit of the holiday and not so much the “spirits” of the holiday. So if you’re the host, control the amount of alcohol people have and don’t be afraid to offer them an alternative. The main thing is be a responsible guest and host.”