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Holiday Safety

The holidays are a time to enjoy our favorite traditions, celebrate around the table, and make new memories with friends and family. To ensure that the festivities are both happy and safe, here are some useful holiday season fire safety tips from the City of Houma Fire Department.

Christmas Safety

Christmas trees are a part of the traditional holiday celebration. If not handled properly, they can cause an extremely dangerous fire threat. A dried-out tree can catch fire and burn a living room in just seconds. Christmas trees account for 200 fires annually. One in every 22 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in death. These statistics include both real and artificial trees.

  • When purchasing a live tree, look for one that is not shedding needles. If branches snap when bent, the tree is already too dry.
  • Keep trees watered. A mixture of lemon-lime soda and water will keep a tree moist longer.
  • Keep trees away from all heat sources, including fireplaces and room heaters.
  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for one labeled "Fire Resistant."
  • Secure the tree in the stand to keep it from toppling.
  • When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
  • Never use candles on a Christmas tree.
  • Never leave holiday lights or candles unattended.
  • Keep lights or candles away from anything that could easily catch fire.
  • Place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • Never block exits with decorations.
  • Extension cords should not run under rugs or carpets or be looped over nails or other sharp objects that could cause them to fray.
  • Inspect all lights and cords before using them. Discard all lights with cracked or broken wiring.
  • Use only UL or FM approved lights, and never overload circuits.
  • Holly and mistletoe are poisonous. Keep them away from children.
  • Keep wrapping paper and ribbons away from heat sources. This includes candles, lights, stoves, and heaters.
  • Wrapping paper and ribbon should be thrown away in trash containers, not fireplaces. Burning paper and ribbon could cause a chimney fire.
  • Children can choke or cut themselves on ornaments, ornament hangers, or tinsel, and can be poisoned by older painted ornaments that contain lead. Put decorations high enough on the tree so children cannot reach them.
  • Adult partygoers should establish a designated driver.

Pets and the Holidays

  • Holiday decorations can pose a threat to your pets. Consider pet-proofing your home to prevent any accidents.
  • Cats and kittens can break their limbs by falling out of Christmas trees.
  • Chewing on electrical wires can cause serious mouth burns as well as severe problems from electric shock.
  • Breakable ornaments and "angel hair" (which is made of spun glass) can cause severe cuts in the mouth and throat, which may require surgery.
  • Poinsettias and the berries of holly and mistletoe are toxic to pets.
  • Chocolate is toxic to pets, even in small amounts.
  • String used to secure roasted turkey or ham can be very tempting to pets. If eaten, the string may cause serious problems requiring surgery. Be sure all strings and netting are disposed of properly.
  • Turkey and chicken bones should never be given to pets; they splinter easily and can cause choking.
  • Pets are not "party animals" - giving alcohol to helpless creatures to get a laugh is cruel, and it can result in serious problems.
  • Do not give aspirin, Tylenol, or any painkillers to a pet unless under the advice of a vet. This can be lethal.
  • Put decorations high enough on the tree so your pet cannot reach them.

Mardi Gras Safety

  • Research the routes and traditions of parades. Some parades are suitable for adult audiences only.
  • Be sure that you are in a safe neighborhood for viewing the parades.
  • Watch the weather report, and dress children accordingly. They can suffer from exposure more quickly than adults.
  • Take a blanket to sit on. Once the parade starts, the blanket can be used to wrap up in if the weather is cold or damp.
  • Face masks can obstruct a child’s vision. Use non-toxic face paint instead.
  • Teach your children their name and phone number.
  • Mark your children's clothes on the inside with their name, address, and phone number.
  • If possible, go to the same area to view parades, and teach your child a landmark to meet if separated.
  • Find a place to make a home base away from the throngs of parade-watchers. If possible, your home base should be at the home of a friend or relative who lives along or near the parade route, or even back at the car. Crowds can be overwhelming to children, and they need a place to rest periodically.
  • Teach children to stay calm and go to a uniformed police officer if lost.
  • Teach your children not to be afraid of police officers. If possible take them up to one prior to the parade. If no police officer is in your area, teach your child to go to another parent with children for help.
  • Make sure your children know to stay with you and away from strangers. Teach your children what to do if they are approached by a stranger. Make sure they know not to leave with a stranger, and if a stranger tries to take them, they should shout, wave their arms, run away, and get another adult’s attention.
  • Never allow children in the street. Try to find an area with barricades and stand behind them.
  • Do not get too close to floats. Floats cannot stop immediately, which make accidents more likely to occur.
  • Do NOT run into the street between floats for a trinket!
  • Never follow behind floats, bands, etc.
  • Always watch what your children catch, especially toddlers and infants who can choke on broken beads and trinkets.
  • Check any candy caught in the parade before allowing your children to eat it.
  • Do not put your hands on the ground.
  • Do not fight over throws.
  • Avoid putting people on your shoulders. Crowds can move unexpectedly, making it easy for you to lose your balance and potentially drop the person to the ground.
  • Be alert to aggressive float riders, particularly one on a ladder. Aggressive riders are more likely to strike you or your child.
  • Never throw anything at the riders.
  • Do not double-park or park in driveways, on neutral grounds (medians), in front of fire hydrants, or within 15 feet of curb corners! Your car will get towed away.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption. It impairs your judgment and limits your ability to care for your children. Remember, the drinking age is 21, and it is enforced.

Ladder Parade Safety

Ladders are popular and a great way for a good view. If you bring a ladder, it must be behind a barricade or as far away from the street as the ladder's height in the event the ladder is knocked over. Many people have built seats on the top of the ladder, so their children will have a great view. Parents should stand on the backs of ladders to protect children from fast-flying objects, and anchor the ladder. If you put your children on a ladder, use one with a seat and a bar in the front, and make sure it is standing on level ground, at a safe distance from the curb. Children under 2 should not be placed on ladders. Try not to place your ladder too close to people with nets or other bead-catching paraphernalia.

Halloween Safety

  • When shopping for costumes and accessories, look for those with a label indicating that they are flame resistant.
  • Get costumes that are bright and reflective. Add reflective tape to Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Make sure that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flame.
  • Masks can limit or block eyesight. Consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives.
  • Write identification (name, address, phone number) discreetly within Halloween attire.
  • Do not simulate knives, guns, or swords. If such props must be used, be certain they do not appear authentic and are soft and flexible enough to prevent injury.
  • Consider fire safety when decorating. Do not overload electrical outlets with holiday lighting or special effects.
  • Never block exits with decorations.
  • Use only battery powered lanterns in place of candles in decorations and costumes.
  • Always keep jack o'lanterns and hot electric lamps away from drapes, decorations, flammable materials, or areas where children will be walking.
  • Eliminate tripping hazards on your porch and walkway.
  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds. Stay in a group.
  • Plan a route with your children and a specific time when you will return home. Leave a copy of the plan with a family member in case of an emergency.
  • Give flashlights with fresh batteries to all children and their escorts. By using a flashlight, they can see and be seen by others.
  • Make sure your children know how call 911 if they have an emergency.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on.
  • Never enter a stranger's home or car for a treat.
  • Remain on well-lit streets, and always use the sidewalk.
  • Always walk. Never run across a street, and only cross as a group.
  • Remove any mask or item that will limit eyesight before crossing a street because some drivers may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters.
  • No treats should be eaten until they are thoroughly checked by an adult.
  • Examine all treats, and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped, or suspicious items.
  • Report any suspicious or unlawful activity to law enforcement immediately.
  • Adult partygoers should establish a designated driver.

Firework Safety

  • Know the difference between a legal consumer firework and a dangerous explosive device.
  • Stay away from illegal explosives.
  • Always read and follow label directions.
  • Use outdoors only.
  • Always wear eye protection, and never leave any part of your body over the firework.
  • Have an adult present for all fireworks activities.
  • NEVER give fireworks to small children. Fireworks are not toys.
  • Sparklers can be unsafe if used improperly.
  • Always have water handy. Use both a garden hose and a bucket.
  • Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
  • Light only one firework at a time.
  • Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait about 20 minutes, then put it in a bucket of water.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
  • Never experiment or make your own fireworks. Homemade fireworks are deadly. Leave the making of fireworks to the experts.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in water before disposing of them in your trash can.
  • Stay away from anything that is not clearly labeled with the name of the item, the manufacturer's name, and instructions for proper use.
  • M-80s are not fireworks. They are federally banned explosives. If you know anyone selling such devices, contact the police department.