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A Happy Halloween, Not a Fright Night
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Leigh-Anne Dennison
October 31, 2006

The big day has arrived—today is Halloween, and as children and parents alike begin the countdown to candy, the American Red Cross offers tips for ensuring that whether it's a night of trick-or-treating or a haunted holiday party, your night will remain fright-free.

The Quest for Candy

  • Plan a safe route:
    • Establish a trick-or-treating route in a well known, well lit neighborhood. Know the route the trick-or-treaters will be taking, if you are not the one accompanying them.
    • Routes should not cut through back alleys and fields. Make sure kids know to stay in populated places.
    • Stick to sidewalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.
    • Cross the street only at corners, not in the middle of the block. Stay together in a group before crossing and always look both ways.
  • Accompany children under age 12. If you can't take them, have another parent, adult friend or a teenaged sibling go along.
  • Choose a firm return time and make sure they know how important it is to be home on time.
  • Give each child a flashlight with fresh batteries or a bright glow stick to help them see and be seen.
  • Make sure children know their phone number and have coins for emergency telephone calls or carry a cell phone.
  • Make sure older children carry identification.
  • Check kids' costumes before they head out to ensure that:
    • Clothing, accessories or props are reflective; add reflective tape, if necessary.
    • Neither the child's vision nor hearing are impaired by costumes; adjust masks, hats, helmets, scarves, etc., as necessary, or switch to face paint.
    • Clothing and shoes fit appropriately. Adjust or fix hems, billowy sleeves or capes that could become a hazard.
    • Make sure that any props or accessories, such a toy swords or knives, are soft—not rigid or sharp.

First the Tricks

  • Remind children to never hide between parked cars.
  • Explain to children the difference between harmless tricks or jokes and vandalism or cruel pranks. No Halloween trick should ever result in property damage or harm another person or animal.
  • Review ALL Halloween safety precautions with children, including pedestrian and traffic safety rules.
  • Good tricks for kids to know are:
    • STOP, LOOK and LISTEN when crossing the street, and
    • STOP, DROP and ROLL should a piece of clothing catch fire.

Then the Treats

  • Eating a good meal before going out can help keep kids from dipping into their Halloween sack before returning home.
  • Only visit well-lit homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door; never go into a stranger's house or apartment.
  • Children should be instructed not to eat anything if the package has been opened or is damaged.
  • Ask children to bring treats home before eating them so you can inspect them. Remember: small, hard pieces of candy are a choking hazard for young children.
  • Know the Poison Control center number (1-800-222-1222) or call your local poison control center number in case of an emergency.

Keeping Your Haunt Safe

  • Prepare for trick-or-treaters and party guests by cleaning porches, lawns and sidewalks, removing obstacles such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
  • Provide a clearly lit path; check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • If you have Jack-O-Lanterns:
    • Try a battery powered light source or light sticks instead of candles to cut down on the fire hazards.
    • Make sure there is no chance of anything blowing into the flames if you choose to use candles.
    • Place them away from doorways or landings, making sure that they are far enough out of the way from trick-or-treaters' paths so no one trips and falls and to avoid potential fires if illuminating pumpkins with candles.
  • When passing out candy, consider the age of the child. Young children may have more trouble with small, hard candies such as gum balls—save those for the older, bigger ghouls and boos.
  • Electric lights are your best safety bet, but if you use candles keep them clear of any flammable decorations and clothing and NEVER leave them unattended.

Having a Happy Howl-oween

  • Bring pets inside and keep them in a safe room where they won't be disturbed during the festivities. This prevents an untimely escape or unintentional lashing out by an animal frightened by the strange sights and sounds of the holiday.
  • Kids aren't the only ones looking to score treats—pets may beg for Halloween candy, but remember that chocolate in any amount can be fatal. Make sure children understand Fido and Fluffy can't have candy; keep all holiday candy stored where they can't get into it.
  • Know the Animal Poison Control Center number (1-888-426-4435) or call your local vet in case of an emergency.
  • Curious cats and wagging dog tails can have lethal, so never leave lit candles unattended.

Precautions in Overdrive

  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods to give yourself time to react to excited trick-or-treaters.
  • Broaden your visual scanning—look to your right and left, into front yards and onto porches to anticipate children entering roads or drives.
  • Watch carefully for children walking on the road, medians and curbs; not only their dark costumes but their stature may make them hard to see.
  • Use caution when exiting driveways and alleyways.
  • Use your vehicle's headlights, even during the day, so you are more visible.
  • Remove masks, hats, helmets or any part of your own costume while you drive if it impedes your mobility or impairs your vision.
  • When driving children to and from holiday events, have them enter and exit at the curbside of the vehicle only.

Halloween sparks the imagination. It can an exciting night full of unexpected chills and thrills from frightfully good costumes and decorations. So, have a howling good time but keep the scares in the realm of the make-believe by taking steps to make this the safest, spooky night of the year.

For Red Cross health and safety tips year round, visit the "Health & Safety" section of RedCross.org or by contacting your local Red Cross chapter.

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