By TEDDYE SNELL
As miniature ghost and goblins take to the streets Wednesday evening in search of treats, local officials are asking revelers to pay attention to safety.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 36.1 million children ages 5-13 don costumes and engage in a quest for sweets and treats of all kinds. But as with any activity, planning ahead can make a big difference when it comes to safety.
Tahlequah Fire Chief Ray Hammons said one of the hallmark decorations at Halloween is the jack-o’-lantern, which traditionally is lit with a candle.
“A lot of people like to use candles,” said Hammons. “But if you’re going to have carved pumpkins, you might want to consider using flashlights, instead of candles. They make them in all different sizes, are inexpensive and can be purchased at dollar stores and Walmart.”
As temperatures dip, Halloween celebrators also resort to using bonfires while outside.
“Campfires, or bonfires, are forbidden in the city limits without the appropriate permits,” said Hammons. “But if you’re out in the county and have a bonfire, you need to make sure it’s restricted to a safe area. You also want to be sure to keep kids in costumes safely away; some costumes are highly flammable.”
Costumes are another concern.
“Parents need to check their kids’ costumes to be sure they have the safety label,” said Hammons. “Since it’s cold outside, people had a tendency to get closer to fires than they should and costumes can be a fire hazard, particularly homemade costumes.”
According to AAA Oklahoma, Halloween ranks among the most dangerous holidays for young pedestrians. The Centers for Disease Control indicates children are four times more like to be hit by a vehicle on Halloween than on any other day of the year.
“Motorists need to be extra-cautious and watch out for spooky vampires, giggling princesses and mighty super heroes who are out trick-or-treating on neighborhood streets,” said Chuck Mai, of AAA Oklahoma.
Mai said parents can reduce the risk to their children Halloween night by trick-or-treating while it is still light outside; wearing costumes that make it easier to walk, see and be seen; carrying flashlights; and wearing makeup instead of masks.
“Remind your kids to cross streets only at corners and to never cross between parked cars or in the middle of the block,” said Mai. “If there are no sidewalks, tell your kids to always walk facing traffic and as far off the roadway as possible.”
Tahlequah Police Chief Clay Mahaney said officers will be on patrol throughout the evening.
“We recommend the kids travel in groups, and to never trick-or-treat alone,” said Mahaney. “They should wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight. Also, in this day and age, we recommend they carry their cell phones, have an adult present and only visit homes that have porch lights lit.”
A number of churches and other organizations will be hosting other events, providing alternatives to door-to-door trick-or-treating.
“There’s lots of carnivals available for kids,” said Mahaney. “We’ll have a police car and officer at Trunk-and-Treat event at First Baptist Church, and invite families to stop by.”
Mahaney recommends little tikes start trick-or-treating before dark, and for older kids to have things wrapped up around 9 p.m.
“Parents need to thoroughly check their kids’ candy for safety purposes,” said Mahaney. “Also, kids shouldn’t accept any unwrapped treats, and should wait until they get home and their parents check everything out before eating anything they’ve gotten during trick-or-treating.”
Dr. Mary Thompson, emergency room physician at Tahlequah City Hospital, said sometimes the excitement over Halloween results in injury.
“The top cause of injuries on Halloween night is accidental falls from tripping over costume hems, steps, curbs or other unseen obstacles,” said Thompson. “Children get so excited on Halloween that they lose their safety sense. Distractions abound, and when you combine them with chidlren’s short stature, inability to assess danger and react quickly enough, lack of skills inevaluating traffic and lack of impulse control, the results can be deadly. “
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