CATES: Holiday Safety

This year, we had a Thanksgiving as I think many of you probably did. Quietly at home with a minimal number of people. Normally Thanksgiving at my house is a big event. We normally have lots of friends and family about on that day. I hope next year I will be able have our big Thanksgiving, but at the same time it was nice just having my immediate family around. One thing I didn’t think about however, was the leftovers. Even reducing the size of everything I normally do; I still had many more leftovers this year than ever before. Between the two—changing our routine because of COVID-19 and the leftovers we had to deal with, I have been thinking a great deal about Holiday Safety.

The National Safety Council has multiple categories to consider with Holiday Safety. A big part of Holiday Safety is travel, especially car travel. Even with the pandemic, many people still travel on the Holidays and roads can become dangerous. On New Year’s Day of 2020, 163 people died on US roads, just a little over two weeks ago on Thanksgiving Day, an estimated 485 people died in car wrecks, and Christmas Day 2019, another 115 people died in cars. Driving under the influence was the cause in over one-third of those accidents. If you do decide to travel this Holiday season, remember to have your car ready for winter and keep and emergency kit in your care. Get a good night’s sleep before setting out so you are not driving drowsy. Plan your schedule to avoid heavy traffic whenever possible. Make sure everyone is wearing their seatbelt and avoid distracted driving—a good idea is to put your phone in the back seat. Practice defensive driving, and plan for a sober driver if you may be in a situation where you are impaired.

Think about decorating safety as well. Many holiday plants, like mistletoe, holly berries, and amaryllis are poisonous and need to be kept away from children. Make sure artificial tress are fire resistant. If you have a live tree, make sure to keep it watered so it does not dry out. Keep trees away from heat sources, and make sure they don’t block exit routes. Keep ornaments that are breakable or have small parts away from the lower branches where small kids can reach them. Make sure lights are in good condition and that indoor lights are only used indoors, and outdoor lights are only used outdoors. Turn off lights and decorations when you are asleep or away from the house.

The National Safety Council also cautions to watch out for fire-starters. One third of house fires during the holiday season are related to decorations. Keep candles away from trees and other decorations, make sure they are not in places where they can be knocked down or blown over, and make sure they are out of reach of children. Keep decorations away from fireplaces that are in use. Keep matches and other fire starters out of reach of children. Use flameless candles whenever possible. Don’t burn trees, wrapping paper, or wreaths in your fireplace. Use fireplace screens when you are using your fireplace. Never leave candles or fireplaces burning when you are asleep or away from home. Make sure your chimney and fireplace are cleaned at least once a year. If you decide to fry a turkey, make sure you are careful to follow every safety precaution. Turkey-fryer related fires have caused 154 deaths related to burns and $5.2 million dollars of property damage in the last 15 years. The US Fire Administration has guidelines for preventing turkey fryer fires on their website at

Finally remember those Holiday leftovers. Food poisoning can be very serious. Make sure you wash your hands frequently when you are handling food. Keep raw meat away from fresh produce, use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked meats, use food thermometers to make sure meats are cooked to safe temperatures, refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of being served, and use or freeze any leftovers within 4 days.

I hope you have a safe and happy Holiday Season!