Holidays call for “whole family” approach to safety

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Norman Seip
  • Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Commander
When families gather for the holidays, it's natural to 'keep an eye out' for groups of nieces and nephews, sons and daughters excited to play together during seasonal celebrations. Airmen thoughtfully "childproof" their homes and check Christmas lights for faults that might lead to a shock. Families check websites for product safety recalls and monitor playtime. Despite this vigilance, the one item most parents fail to think about is their own safety.

The Centers for Disease Control have studied this phenomenon. While our focus over the holidays is the safety and protection of the youngest members of our family, the adults in your party are the people most likely to become injured, or worse.

Injuries to children (typically bumps, burns, scrapes or car accidents -- in vehicles operated by adults) over the holidays have been declining over the past few years thanks to the thoughtfulness of parents. Product safety notices and base safety campaigns are helping to keep safety at the forefront of our daily activities.

But ironically, adults aren't part of these same positive statistics. In fact, the majority of holiday injuries are a result of fall-related incidents, usually while on a ladder or roof hanging lights or affixing decorations.

It's expected between 5,800 and 8,700 adults visit emergency rooms each year because of injuries during the holiday season (1 November to 31 December). These accidents are entirely preventable with simple measures such as using proper equipment (an old chair versus a new ladder) or having a spotter hold the base of ladder. In many parts of the country, fall-related injuries spike with the combination of ice on the ground and alcohol in the brain. Airmen are careful to remind children to "hold the handrail" on slippery steps...but then forget to do the same for themselves.

Slips and falls aren't the only danger to keep in mind. Hanukah candles and Christmas trees are the primary cause of more than 400 fires and millions of dollars in property damage each year. Deaths from house fires and injuries from flames tend to rise during the holidays as families gather around Yule logs, light festive candles and prepare hearty family dinners.1

Because of these facts, I encourage you to take a "whole family" approach to safety. Monitoring your loved ones at home, while shopping and during extended family gatherings is critical in ensuring a fun and festive holiday.2 In addition, looking out for yourself and your spouse is equally important.

You are the family member 'holding the keys' when adults might choose to drink and drive. You are the person lighting candles and nailing decorations to the roof. You are the person devising a proactive plan for family shopping trips. You are the person buckling your children's seatbelts...and then ensuring to buckle your own!

With the proper "whole family" approach to safety, you'll ensure the holidays are merry, memorable and safe for everyone in your home.

No matter what location this message finds you, at home or serving proudly abroad, Kathleen and I are extremely thankful for your family's continued service -- we wish you a safe and joyful Holiday season.

1. Statistics used in this article gathered from The National Safety Council and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
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2. For Holiday safe-shopping tips for your family visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: