Holiday Safety Tips From Lawyers

Many of you will travel to spend your Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday with loved ones, and many will host family and friends at home. The Billy Johnson Law Firm wants to share some safety tips to help our friends and neighbors have a wonderful time during the upcoming holidays, no matter where you spend them.

Many Kentuckians enjoy preparing their Thanksgiving turkey using a gas-fired fryer instead of baking it in the oven. The quick cook time, juicy meat and crispy skin are appealing reasons for using a deep fryer. Less attractive are the associated risks.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says deep fryer fires cause an average of 5 deaths, 60 injuries and more than $15 million in property damage each year.

Thanksgiving Cooking Tips

In order to accommodate the average size turkey, deep fryers have to be able to hold a large amount of oil (approximately 5 gallons). Designed for outdoor use, turkey fryers require a connection to some type of gas source (most often propane) that heats the oil to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The biggest danger is that the heated oil can be ignited by the open flame. It only takes a small quantity of oil to splash onto the gas for the results to be devastating. This can happen very easily if it’s raining or snowing, if a partially thawed or unthawed turkey is used, if the oil is overfilled, or if the turkey is carelessly dropped into the fryer.

Furthermore, people have suffered severe burns after tripping and falling in or against the fryer. Serious property damage has occurred from fires that took place in a garage or on a patio. Turkey fryers should not be used in closed spaces and should be kept off all wooden structures, like patios and decks. A fryer in use should never be unattended and a fire extinguisher should be readily available. Fires have been so prevalent that an oil-less fryer is now available that cooks the turkey with infrared waves.

Those who choose the hot oil route should consider these guidelines:
  • Get a fryer with a sealed lid.
  • Don’t improperly thaw the turkey.
  • Dry the turkey before putting it in the hot oil.
  • Don’t overfill the oil.
  • Cook in an open area away from trees, buildings and fences.
  • Don’t use ice to cool the oil.
  • Cover all bare skin when dunking or removing the turkey.
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Do not leave the fryer unsupervised.
  • Keep children and pets away from the cooking area.
  • If the oil begins to smoke, turn the gas off immediately.
  • Do not spray water on any fire.

Other Holiday Cooking Safety Tips

Cooks should avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while preparing the holiday meal. Never leave the stove unattended. If the cook has to leave the kitchen, even for a short time, they should turn off the stove. More cooking safety steps are:
  • Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep children and pets away from the cooking area.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains — away from the stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  • Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease (and germ) buildup.
  • Have a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.

Christmas Tree Safety

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “fire-resistant.” When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, with needles that are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. More tree safety steps are:
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Diagonally cut at least an inch off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.
  • Make sure the base is steady so the tree won’t tip over easily.

Drunk Driving During ‘Drinksgiving’: Blackout Wednesday

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving used to be a time to double-check on Thursday’s plans, make the pies, maybe take a last minute trip to the store for a forgotten essential. While those things still happen, Thanksgiving Eve now has the dubious honor of being referred to by bartenders and laws enforcement alike as “Blackout Wednesday” and “Drinksgiving.” Chiefly due to college students returning home for the first time since the semester started, that night now features bars advertising drink specials, clubs waiving cover charges, and alcohol-fueled revelry so decadent that some rankings have placed it above New Year’s Eve for drunk driving fatalities.

This see-and-be-seen scene of excessive drinking has frightening consequences. The proportion of people killed in drunk driving crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday rose by 30 percent in 2010 compared to the rest of the year, and the number of drunk driving deaths increased by 24 percent compared to 2009. With social binge drinking (consuming a high volume of alcohol in a short period of time) also common at this time of year, it is no surprise that DUI arrests are at their highest between Thanksgiving and the end of New Year’s weekend. For example, Pennsylvania’s troopers made 412 DUI arrests over the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend – far more than the 197 DUI arrests made over the Christmas weekend and 267 arrests over New Year’s.

Thanksgiving Eve serves as the unofficial start of the drinking and driving season that lasts until New Year’s Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this five-week span will see more than 700 people injured or killed each day in drunk driving accidents. This rate is two to three times higher than the rest of the year.

Anyone who consumes alcohol and drives increases their risk of being in a car accident. Though it may be uncomfortable to discuss, consider having a conversation with your child about the adverse effects of binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and driving while drunk — and let them know you care even though they are now often hundreds of miles away. If you plan to drink during periods when driving dangers are elevated, be aware that law enforcement is on alert for intoxicated drivers.

General Holiday Safety

Most of these are just common sense suggestions. But with so much upcoming activity, we all can use a reminder.
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S.
  • Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is.
  • Electric toys should be UL/FM approved.
  • Place older ornaments and decorations that might be painted with lead paint out of the reach of small children and pets.
  • Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them well out of reach, or avoid having them.
  • Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor, and a curious child or pet may eat it. This can cause anything from mild distress to death.
  • Inspect wrapped gifts for small decorations, such as candy canes, gingerbread men, and mistletoe berries, all of which could be choking hazards.
  • If you plan to travel for the holidays, don’t discuss your plans with strangers, and ask a trusted friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your home.

Winter Driving Tips for Rural Roads

We live in a beautiful area of the country. Surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and close to an abundance of natural waterways, Pike County is Kentucky’s largest county in terms of land mass. Among the many roads that serve this region, some of the more heavily traveled ones include US 23, US 119, US 460, KY 80, and KY 194. Any road can present a travel hazard when winter weather comes to the Big Sandy region, even when maintenance crews are out in full force. There are many challenges to driving in the ice and snow, particularly on those rural paths that wind through the mountains. When staying home just isn’t an option, here are some tips that can help you handle treacherous driving conditions.
  • Know the expected road and weather conditions. Plan your route and check conditions in advance so you aren’t taken by surprise. Many local news outlets have up-to-date information on their websites, as does the official page of the KY DOT.
  • Never have less than a half tank of gas. You never know when you might encounter a serious traffic jam that leaves you idling for hours, or even a minor skid where you have to wait for a wrecker to pull you out. Having enough gas to run the heater can make all the difference in many situations.
  • Install snow tires on your vehicle, which give extra traction in ice and snow. Depending on where your travels may take you, consider using tire chains.
  • Keep your windshield clear and use windshield washer fluid that is rated for winter conditions.
  • Test your battery and replace if unreliable. Freezing temperatures put more strain on your battery and cause it to quit without warning. If you are unsure how to test your battery, many national auto parts stores will do so for free, including Pep Boys, Advance Auto Parts, AutoZone, and CARQUEST.
  • Be prepared by having an emergency survival kit that includes a first aid kit, a flashlight, flares, blankets, matches or a lighter, candles, and extra socks, hats, gloves, and scarves. Throw in a few granola bars or boxes of raisins, a container that can hold melted snow for drinking water, and an adapter that can be used in your car to charge your cell phone.
  • Carry a bag of sand or kitty litter in the back of your vehicle, for both weight and traction in the event you get stuck.
  • Drive slower than the posted speeds and allow more time to reach your destination.
  • Give more space between you and the driver in front of you. A wet road surface means longer stopping distances.
  • Use caution on bridges and overpasses, because they are susceptible to freezing before roadways.
  • Call 911 or the Kentucky State Police at 1-800-222-5555 if you see or suspect that someone is stranded.

Happy Holidays!

If you have questions or would like to speak to someone at our firm, please call us at 606-437-4488 or fill out our online contact form.

Attorney Billy Johnson

William “Billy” Johnson grew up in the Dorton area of Pike County, Kentucky, and early on decided to stay in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Like many others in Eastern Kentucky, Billy’s dad worked as a coal miner, a hard job but one that taught his son how to meet challenges head on and persevere. Attorney Billy Johnson has years of experience helping injured clients with claims such as car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, wrongful deaths, work injuries, and more. [ Attorney Bio ]

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