Wednesday, October 30, 2013

TOP STORY >> Experts offer Halloween safety tips

Leader staff writer

Parents taking kids trick-or-treating tomorrow night should know that ghosts and goblins are not the dangers they should keep an eye out for, local first responders warn.

Jacksonville Fire Marshal Mike Williams said in an e-mail, “Over the years, we have had several incidences where trick-or-treaters were struck by cars. The lesson to take from that would be stay in well-lit places and wear reflective material on your costumes.”

Flashlights, glow sticks, reflective tape and flashing decorations will make the wearer much more noticeable in the dark, he continued.

Sgt. Keith Graham of the Cabot Police Department said, “There will be a lot of traffic. (Flashlights, reflective material, etc.) make it easier for people driving the cars to see the kids.”

April Kiser of the Jacksonville Police Department said in an e-mail that children should walk instead of run, not use alleyways or unlit streets, walk on sidewalks and driveways and cross the street at the corner or in a crosswalk.

Williams said parents should help young children choose or make safe costumes that are fireproof or treated with fire retardant.

Masks should have eyeholes large enough to allow good peripheral vision, he noted.

If a child is carrying a prop, such as a scythe, butcher knife or pitchfork, the tip should be smooth and flexible enough to not cause injury if fallen on, Williams continued. He said to make sure that costumes wouldn’t cause the kids to trip either.

Kiser suggested wearing a watch in addition to carrying a flashlight and cell phone.

Williams said, “Trick-or-treating isn’t what it used to be. In most cities, it’s not safe to let kids walk the streets by themselves. Your best bet is to make sure that an adult is going with them. If you can’t take them yourself, see if another parent or two can.”

Kiser said, “Children should always go trick-or-treating with an adult.”

Williams added that parents should know the route their kids are taking if they are going trick-or-treating without an adult.

He said, “Let them know that they are to check in with you every hour, by phone or by stopping back at home. Make sure that they know not to deviate from the planned route so that you always know where they will be.”

Kiser agreed and said no one should trick-or-treat alone. “Have at least two buddies go with you,” she advised.

Williams added that parents should search online for sex offenders in their area. The website address is search/index.php.

“Make sure that your kids stay away from these houses,” the fire marshal said.

Williams continued, “Teach your kids about not getting into strangers’ cars or talking to strangers, no matter what the person says to them. Explain to them as simply as you can that some adults are bad and want to hurt children, that they should never go into a house that they don’t know, get into a car or go anywhere with a stranger. Also, tell them what to do should this happen, to scream as loud as they can to draw attention and to run away as fast as they can to someplace safe.”

Kiser said, “Accept treats only in the doorway. Never go inside a house…Visit only houses where the lights are on.”

She added, “Be sure and say thank you for your treats.”

Williams also suggested setting a curfew for when the kids need to be back home.

The fire marshal said children should eat a filling meal before trick-or-treating to reduce their temptation to eat candy before parents have a chance to check it for tampering that could mean someone trying to poison the kids.

He also noted that holiday favorites could cause fires if people aren’t careful.

Williams said people who are using candles in jack-o-lanterns should keep them at least 3 feet from anything combustible, but LED lights that closely resemble candles are a much safer alternative.

Kiser cautioned that kids shouldn’t play near jack-o-lanterns.

Williams continued, “Kids will be kids. Explain to kids of all ages the difference between tricks and vandalism. Throwing eggs at a house may seem funny, but they need to know the other side of the coin as well, that clean up and damages can ruin Halloween for everyone. If they are caught vandalizing, make them clean up the mess they’ve made.”

Kiser and Graham said Cabot and Jacksonville police will be conducting extra patrols on Halloween. Graham added that Cabot officers would be focusing on neighborhoods.

He added, “You’ll have a few pranks, older kids doing stupid stuff, but nothing real bad. (We don’t have) kids stealing candy from the little kids or anything like that.”