Monday, November 30, 2015

Outdoor Decorating Safety

Whether you are turning your yard into Santa’s Workshop or stringing a few lights around your cozy cottage, neighborhoods full of twinkling lights are a staple of holiday cheer. But before you dazzle onlookers, make sure you are aware of the precautions you need to take in order to light up the night safely.

Ladder Safety

There are unfortunately thousands of injuries every year due to improper ladder use. Ladders should extend at least 3 feet above your roof or the surface you are attaching lights to. Never stand on your toes or the top rung of the ladder. If you have to do this, the ladder is not tall enough for your purposes. The second rung from the top is as high as you should climb on a step ladder.
For extension ladders, use the 4-to-1 Rule: for every four feet of distance between the ground and point of contact (such as the roof), move the base of the ladder out one foot. You never want to stand higher than the fourth rung from the top on an extension ladder.
No matter what type of ladder you are using, make sure it is safe before you climb. Ensure the rungs are dry and clean and all locks are secure. Wear slip-resistant shoes and clothes that will not get in your way. While on the ladder, keep your body weight centered and do not overreach. Both your feet should be securely planted on the ladder at all times.

Light and Circuit Safety

Many people like to use lots of lights to create awe-inspiring holiday displays, but it is important to use caution when powering all these lights. Overloaded circuits and loose connections can cause shocks and fires. If you are purchasing new lights for decorating, go for LED lights which burn cooler than incandescent lights. An added bonus of LED is that they use less power, so your electric bill won’t take as big of a hit.
Only buy lights from a reputable, trustworthy company. Quality lights will also come with safety information from the manufacturer, which you should be sure to read and adhere to. Plan your lighting display around available light sockets, keeping in mind not to overload any sockets. Do not connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together.

When mounting lights, be sure they are supported and affixed in a way that does not harm the insulation wrapping the wire. Only use lights that are specifically designed for outdoor use outside. These lights should be plugged in to a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting outlet (GFCI). You can tell an outlet is a GFCI outlet because it will have “Test” and Reset” buttons on it. These outlets cut the current if it detects moisture or detects that the current is getting too hot. Once the conditions are corrected, you can press the “Reset” button and the lights should work properly again. Always unplug lights before you leave the house or go to sleep to prevent them from overheating.

Thanksgiving Travel 2015

Thanksgiving Safety

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year, and it’s even more fun when everyone is safe. Raw turkey, cooking appliances, and busy kitchens can sometimes lead to unfortunate Thanksgiving mishaps. Here are some Thanksgiving safety tips to ensure a safe and delicious holiday.

Food Safety

To make sure the food you serve at Thanksgiving is safe for your family, a little bit of preparation and forethought is required. Fresh (or unfrozen) turkey should not be in your fridge for more than two days, so don’t buy too early.

Thawing Turkey

If your turkey is frozen, you will need to plan ahead so it can thaw correctly. It is extremely important that meat is thawed safely; otherwise bacteria can grow in the meat which you will then ingest. DO NOT thaw a turkey at room temperature, as this is the ideal temperature for bacteria to grow.

Fridge Thawing

The best way to thaw frozen meat is in the fridge, or at a temperature of 40°F. It will take about 1 day for every 5 pounds to thaw a turkey in the fridge, (e.g. a 15 pound turkey will take 3 days to thaw) so plan accordingly. You also don’t want to move it into the fridge too early, as you don’t want it to sit unthawed for more than a day.

Cold Water Thawing

Oops, did you forget to plan ahead and find yourself with a frozen turkey the day before Thanksgiving? There is a quicker thawing method, but it takes a bit more work. You can thaw a turkey by immersing it in ice cold water, replacing the water every 30 minutes to keep it ice cold. If the water gets too warm, bacteria can start to develop on the outside of the meat. This method will take about 30 minutes per pound, so a 15 pound turkey will take 7-8 hours to thaw.

Cook From Frozen

Is it Thanksgiving day and your turkey is frozen? Well, go ahead and pop it in the oven. You can cook a turkey from frozen, but it will take considerably longer. A 15 pound frozen turkey cooked at 325°F will take about 6 hours to cook, which is about 2-3 hours longer than it would take if it were thawed out.

Cooking Turkey

Before cooking your turkey, you must first pull out the giblets, usually found in a bag inside the turkey. Then rinse the turkey inside and out. Then stuff the turkey if you cook it with the stuffing in, although some cook the turkey and add on the stuffing on the side.

These times are just guidelines. The safest way to make sure your bird is cooked is with a meat thermometer; the internal temperature should be 165°F.

Turkey Fryer Safety

Another option for cooking turkey is to fry it. This option is best for smaller turkeys; in fact you do not want to fry a turkey any larger than 14 pounds. Any larger and the skin will burn before the inside can cook. If you will have a lot of people to feed, fry two smaller turkeys.

Set up an area outside to do the frying. It should be a level and as open an area as possible. It will be useful to have a small table nearby for your supplies and seasonings. Place something non-flammable such as a plywood board under the burner to catch any oil that may splatter.

Kitchen Safety

In addition to preparing the turkey safely, there are some preparations that should be made to ensure a busy kitchen is also a safe kitchen on Thanksgiving.

Make sure all smoke detectors have working batteries.
Keep children away from hot surfaces and fryers
Clean any area that raw turkey may have touched, as well as any dishes, utensils, and your hands, with antibacterial cleaner.
Have a fire extinguisher on hand, especially if frying a turkey
This infographic will help you remember the most important safety tips covered in this article. Have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Holiday Travel Safety

We always see an increase in traffic around the holidays, but Thanksgiving remains one of the deadliest days for drivers. The bad news is that AAA predicts the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday season will see an increase in the number of cars on the road from last year. In fact, AAA believes there will be a 0.6% increase, adding some 300,000 cars on the road.
An estimated 46.9 million Americans will travel over 50 miles on this upcoming holiday weekend, which is being defined as November 25th through November 29th.
Here’s the good news: unemployment is shrinking, gas prices are the lowest they’ve been on Thanksgiving weekend since 2008, and many Americans are seeing an increase in their disposable income. However, this will likely create the most holiday travelers since 2007.
Some facts to keep in mind
  • Airfare has fallen in price
  • Hotel rentals have increased in price
  • Car rentals have increased in price
  • AAA predicts it will need to help 360,000 motorists over this upcoming holiday weekend
  • There are around 450 traffic fatalities each Thanksgiving Holiday
How to stay safe this Thanksgiving Weekend
Follow basic driving safety precautions
While these things are always important, they become even more so over a holiday often credited to being the deadliest for drivers. Remember to:
  • Wear your seatbelt
  • Drive the speed limit
  • Look both ways
  • Use your turn signal
  • Keep both hands on the wheel
Plan ahead
Aggressive driving tends to stem from foiled time expectations. Instead of worrying about making it on time, understand and remember that you will likely run into traffic while traveling over the holidays. Instead of getting frustrated when running into a traffic jam, be prepared for one. Give yourself a good cushion of time and leave early. This will help you make it on time despite delays as well as minimizing road rage. Remember that aggressive driving is responsible for 1/3 of all fatal car crashes.

Make sure your car is in optimal working condition
If you’re planning a long or short road trip over this Thanksgiving Weekend, then make sure your car is in good working order. At the very least, make sure your tires have the proper amount of air pressure and that your car’s battery is not low.
Have a designated driver
Drunk drivers are always a threat, but holiday weekends tend to bring more than the usual amount out onto the roadways. The best way to prevent drinking and driving is by not drinking, but the second best way is to have a designated driver. If you plan to go to a party, make sure you plan how you will get home safely as well.
Driving defensively
Always a good idea, driving defensively can help you make it to and from your holiday destination. Remember that aggressive driving is not personal, even if it may seem so at times. Remember that everyone has the right to drive on the road and that preventing someone from getting over, speeding, or cutting someone off is not worth risk.
Focus on the road
Nine Americans die every day on average in distracted driving related incidents. This number is likely to spike when driving over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That’s why it’s important to stay focus on the road at all times. Do not search for loose items, text, program your GPS, or daydream while driving. Help keep the roads safe by staying focused with both hands on the wheel while driving.
While some of this information may seem obvious, it doesn’t change the fact many people who read this or similar information will ignore it despite the fact it could save a life.  Holidays are a great time to see family and friends, but they also increase the dangers of driving. So, over this 2015 Thanksgiving holiday remember to drive wisely and come home safe

Thanksgiving Safety and Fun Facts

Monday, November 23, 2015

Turkey Safety Tips

We now declare this National Turkey Thawing Day, when frozen turkeys up to 20 pounds should be moved out of the freezer and into the refrigerator. That means most of them.
Have you moved yours yet?
If that bird is bigger than 20 pounds, you're running out of time to get it easily thawed by Thanksgiving. You're also running out of the safest options.
No other holiday meal hands us the same challenge, cooking one of the most beloved – and largest – pieces of protein we see all year. On this day, different rules may apply.
Here are seven tips to keep your holiday food safe:
1. Wash your hands. You know the drill: Warm water, lots of soap, scrubbing while you say the entire alphabet. Make your helpers do it, too. And do it all over again after touching raw meat. Or your dog and cat.
2. Thaw smartly. Here's what the U.S. Department of Agriculturerecommends for refrigerator thawing times: 5-6 days for turkeys 20-24 pounds; 4-5 days for 16-20 pounds; 3-4 days for 12-16 pounds; 1-3 days for 4-12 pounds. There are cold-water thawing methods (see previous USDA link), but some can take a half-day. Microwaving is dicey. Some say only the smallest birds (up to 12 pounds) can be thawed safely in the microwave. Check your machine's manual, but it's usually 60-90 minutes on defrost. Turkeys headed for the deep-fryer need to be defrosted properly because ice crystal can go ka-boom in hot oil.
3. Or don't thaw. Butterball says to unwrap a bird no bigger than 14 pounds, run cold water in cavities to remove inserts. Place on pan and in 325 degree oven. Tent with foil if breast gets too brown. Cooking times are not short, up to 6 hours for a 14-pounder. Get important details on the Butterball site and from a video at
4. Store properly. A defrosted turkey or a fresh turkey should spend no more than two days in the refrigerator before cooking. Place it in a pan, to prevent juices from contaminating other foods.
5. Don't rinse the bird. Sadly, nearly half of all meats, especially poultry from factory farms, can be contaminated with bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. It's estimated that rinsing can spread bacteria as far as three feet awayfrom the bird. Dry it, though, for a crispier skin. Disposable paper towels make good blotters. Clean counters, tools and hands thoroughly.
5. Cook properly. Consult a cooking-time chart, but be prepared for variations depending on the kind of pan you use, whether it's stuffed and whether you cover the bird. Here are times for unstuffed birds: 8-12 pounds (2 ¾-3 hours); 12-14 pounds (3-3 ¾ hours); 14-18 pounds (3 ¾-4 ¼ hours); 18-20 pounds (4 ¼-4 ½ hours); 20-24 pounds (4 ½-5 hours). A Consumer Reports study from last yearshowed those pop-up timers – and even those you buy on your own – are unreliable in both temperature directions. Go with an instant-read meat thermometer while you're roasting the deepest parts of the thigh and breast to a safe 165 degrees.
6. Store leftovers swiftly. Don't let good food go to waste by leaving it out too long. Two hours out of the oven is considered the limit for meats before refrigeration or freezing is needed. After 20 minutes of resting, that leaves only 1 hour and 40 minutes on the buffet. Three to four days in the fridge is also a cutoff time before you need to freeze leftovers. Sure, it all sounds bossy, but it's better than being bossed into the bathroom. Or the hospital. Stay thankful.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Heating your home safely

Heat safety As winter weather moves in, many people use fireplaces, space heaters, and other fuel-fired equipment to warm their homes. While alternative heating sources can make your home cozy, using them increases your risk of a home fire.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), heating is the second leading cause of home fires following cooking.

Taking simple steps can prevent a fire from happening in your home. The National Fire Protection Association and USFA offer these heating safety tips, including: 
·         Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater; 
·         Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room;  
·         Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters; and 
·         Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
For more ways to have a fire-safe home when the mercury dips, check out this USFA resource guide to share with family and friends. 

Deep Fryer Dangers

Thinking about what to prepare for your holiday feast? If your menu plans include deep frying a turkey, there’s important safety information to keep in mind.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires. Keep your festivities from going up in flames; only use turkey fryers outdoors.

USFA wants to remind you of the dangers that exist when deep frying a turkey, including:
·         Turkey fryers can easily tip over, spilling hot cooking oil over a large area;
·         A partially frozen turkey will cause cooking oil to splatter when put in the pot;
·         Even a small amount of cooking oil spilling on a hot burner can cause a large fire; and

The sides of the cooking pot, lid, and pot handles can get dangerously hot.