By SEAN ROWLEY
With the holidays in full swing and the onset of winter just days away, many people are indoors keeping warm, putting up decorations and preparing big meals for family and friends.
Such holiday activities often require electricity and open flames, and each cold snap seems to bring a report of a house fire started by a space heater or a worn electrical cord.
“We’re happy to report that we haven’t seen an increase in fire runs lately,” said Ted Kupsick, assistant chief of the Tahlequah Fire Department. “People just need to remember to be careful with flames around Christmas trees, extension cords and space heaters.”
Kupsick said cold weather encourages the lighting of more flames in homes, and that all must be remembered and monitored.
“If you have a fireplace, you need to keep the chimney inspected and cleared,” he said. “It is best to burn only seasoned wood. Green wood releases more creosote. If you light candles, of course, you need to keep them in a safe spot and away from drapes or curtains, but they need to be attended. They shouldn’t be left burning in a room.”
Cooking a big holiday meal can stress the cook and the cooking equipment.
“People need to remember everything they have on the burners and in the oven,” Kupsick said. “Forget one thing and you could end up with a stove fire. Focus on preparing the meal and don’t get distracted - and I know it is easy to get distracted when everyone is over for the holidays. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, but please be safe.”
Another safety concern during the holidays is toys - many of which are intended for specific age groups.
“Age-appropriateness may be the most important consideration when buying toys,” said Heather Winn, family consumer science educator for the Cherokee County Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Office. “When I was a new mom, I wasn’t thinking about that, and I bought my son toys he couldn’t play with until the next Christmas.”
Younger children shouldn’t play with toys with small parts that can be swallowed.
“Parents can use common sense,” Winn said. “Check a doll to make sure the eyes can’t be pulled off easily. If a toy makes noise, make sure it isn’t so loud that it might startle the child or damage hearing if it is held to the ear. Buy toys that are well-made, and look for toys that are fun but also educational. For an infant or toddler, consider toys which develop motor skills and eye-hand coordination. Parents are welcome to visit our office to pick up a copy of our toy safety checklist we use with our baby-sitting course.”
When researching toys, Winn suggested visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to check for recalls.
“You can check the status of toys, baby beds and other items,” she said. “Sometimes a recall involves returning the item or just purchasing and installing the parts to make it safe. Parents should still use good judgment. The site won’t include everything, and a number of reports or complaints must be filed before a recall is deemed necessary.”
Winn encouraged parents to include an all-ages gift when buying presents for a child.
“Buy a book,” she said. “The kids use their reading skills and their imaginations, and usually learn something. I think one of the best holiday interactions between parents or guardians and their children is to read a book to them.”