Blog By: R. Peter Sells, MBA, V.P. & Chief Training Officer
I hope that didn’t scare you too much, but maybe it got rid of your hiccups. You’re welcome. There’s something special about Hallowe’en. It’s magic for the little kids, but we don’t frame it with any myth about bunnies, fairies, or jolly old elves. It’s simply play, and kids get that. As a parent, it’s fun taking your kids around the neighbourhood, and some of the very little ones who come calling to your door are impossibly cute. You really only get about a dozen Hallowe’ens as a kid. You don’t really know what’s going on until you’re 3 years old or so, and by 14 or 15 it’s not cool any longer.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way. I had an opportunity to attend a conference of TRADE, the Training Resource and Data Exchange, at the US National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. TRADE is a networking organization for state/provincial fire training organizations, along with fire departments from the largest city in any state or province and any other “Metro” sized fire departments (serving populations of over 200,000 people). This was a valuable professional experience, and I made a lot of new contacts as well as renewing some existing relationships. Unfortunately, it took place over the weekend of Hallowe’en, and my daughters were 5 and 3 years old. That’s one Hallowe’en I can never get back.
So, some regrets on my part, but also some precious memories of their other Hallowe’ens as well as mine as a kid in the 60s and 70s. In those days, we would have an old pillow case for our loot, and costumes would consist of our football pads, or cheap, uncomfortable plastic masks with tiny eye holes, or old clothes with ashes smudged on our faces to make us look like hoboes. If the weather was poor, all of this would be over a snowsuit, of course. If the weather was good, by the time I was 10 or so, we would roam farther afield from our immediate neighbourhood but still adhere pretty much to the unofficial 9 p.m. deadline.
I remember one year when we were a few blocks from home, and one very nice lady had run out of candy, so she had baked a chocolate cake and was inviting kids in for a slice of cake and a can of Coke. We were decades away from smart phones, but it was incredible how quickly word got around.
It was at about that time that Hallowe’en candy safety became a thing. The word on the street was that we were not to accept things that were not wrapped, or homemade items, or fresh fruit. Stories were circulating about pins or razor blades being found inside apples, but nobody seemed to know anyone to whom this had happened. Still, it represented a loss of innocence.
There are many adjectives that can be applied to current times, but innocent is not one of them. We have street-proofed our kids to the best of our abilities, but Hallowe’en can pose unique challenges. Here are some Hallowe’en safety tips, from various sources:
From the National Fire Protection Association;
· When choosing a costume, stay away from long trailing fabric.
· If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so he or she can see out.
· Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
· Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper catch fire easily. Keep all decorations away from open flames and other heat sources like light bulbs and heaters.
· Use a battery-operated candle or glow-stick in jack-o’lanterns. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution. Make sure children are watched at all times when candles are lit. When lighting candles inside jack-o’lanterns, use long, fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter.
· Be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn and far enough out of the way of trick-or-treaters, doorsteps, walkways and yards.
· Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks escape routes.
· Make sure all smoke alarms in the home are working.
· Tell children to stay away from open flames including jack-o’lanterns with candles in them. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. (Have them practice, stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with their hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.)
Did you know that decorations are the first thing to ignite in roughly 800 reported home fires each year (USA)? More than one-third of these fires were started by a candle.
To those tips from the NFPA I would add that face paint is a great alternative to traditional Hallowe’en masks, especially when also wearing a cloth mask over your mouth and nose this year. You can get face paint at most dollar stores, just make sure it is non-toxic. Have fun incorporating a cloth or surgical mask into your costume.
Safety tips for drivers, from the Canadian Automobile Association;
· Take your time and drive below the speed limit. Allow extra time to get where you are going. Do not speed.
· Most trick-or-treating takes place between 6-9 p.m., so if you can avoid driving during that time, even better.
· Drive defensively. This means that you drive with the expectation that a small child may dart out unexpectedly from between parked cars. Be aware that children are easily excited and lack the capacity to control their impulses; they may wander off sidewalks and may not notice approaching cars while they are costumed.
· Remain vigilant. Be conscious of sidewalks and roadways, and of pedestrians and vehicular traffic both behind you and in front of you. Know the relative position of your vehicle to everything around it and be prepared to come to a sudden stop safely and quickly.
· Be cautious. Especially when pulling in or out of parking spots or driveways, and in any situation where your visibility may be limited (for example, while driving behind a large vehicle or truck.)
· Remove distractions. Put the food away, stop fiddling with the Bluetooth and make sure you’ve programmed your destination into your GPS, tuned into your favourite radio station and adjusted your climate controls before you shift your car into drive. It should go without saying that your cellphone should stay in your purse or the glove compartment until you are safely parked.
And new this year, we have some COVID19 safety tips for Hallowe’en, from
the Province of Ontario;
· Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region (as of this writing), traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is not recommended. Consider alternative ways to celebrate instead, such as:
· encouraging kids to dress up and participate in virtual activities and parties
· organizing a candy hunt with people living in your household
· carving pumpkins
· having a movie night or sharing scary stories
· decorating front lawns
If you live outside the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions and are going to go out to trick-or-treat (check with your local public health authority for current guidelines in your area);
· only go out with members of your household
· only trick-or-treat outside
· both trick-or-treaters and people handing out candy should wear a face covering — a costume mask is not a substitute and should not be worn over a face covering because it may make it difficult to breathe
· do not congregate or linger at doorsteps and remember to line up two metres apart if you are waiting
· avoid high-touch surfaces and objects, such as railings and doorbells
· whether you are collecting or handing out treats, wash your hands often and thoroughly, or use hand sanitizer
· If you are giving out treats, do not leave them in a bucket or bowl for children to grab. Consider using tongs or other similar tools to hand out treats.
Nobody wants to take all the fun out of Hallowe’en, but nothing is as scary as getting hit by a car, having your clothing or house catch on fire, or catching COVID19.
FireRein wishes everyone a happy, fun, safe, healthy Hallowe’en!