New Year’s celebrations: Drinking safety

New Year’s Eve can be a fun celebration, but if you plan to make alcohol a part of your festivities, be sure that you plan in advance to ensure you don’t endanger yourself or others. Here are some tips for alcohol safety – we’ve posted some of them previously.

A good rule of thumb is that your body can only process about one drink per hour. While that may vary a bit based on weight and gender, it’s a fairly good rule to keep in mind. But be careful about how you define “one drink” – this equates to 12-ounces of beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine, or one shot (one ounce) of 80 proof alcohol. A martini or other mixed cocktail generally contains more than one shot.

The Blood Alcohol Calculator will help you estimate your impairment level per drink and tell you if you are “legal” in a given state. The calculator works by giving an estimate of your “blood alcohol count” (BAC) or the ratio of alcohol to blood in your system. Enter the type of drink, how many drinks you consumed/plan to consume, your weight, and the amount of time you have been/will be drinking. This will produce an estimated BAC, and will tell you if you are impaired and at risk of arrest should you be stopped by police.

This page includes some handy alcohol impairment reference charts for men and for women, and charts that describe the type of impairment that people experience at various BAC levels. There are also a list of common myths and suggestions for how to get car keys away from an intoxicated person.

There are also some smart phone apps for tracking BAC, but we haven’t used any of these so we can’t vouch for them.

If you are out on New Year’s Eve, have an advance strategy to ensure your safety:

  • Plan for a designated driver.
  • Plan to sleep over.
  • Look for a Tipsy Taxi service in your area. Many communities sponsor a free taxi service that can be called to get a ride home. You can call a local police department to see if there are any operating in your community. Or call an Uber or a Lyft.
  • Drink non alcoholic beverages.
  • Have one or two drinks early in the evening and switch to non-alcoholic beverages for a few hours before you drive home.

If you are hosting a party, take your responsibilities seriously. You would never forgive yourself if a guest were injured or killed – or killed another driver – after leaving your house. Plus, you might have either criminal or civil liability for any accident ensuing from intoxication that occurred at your home. Here is a good Responsible Party Host Tip Sheet (PDF) to help you plan a safe party.

And one final note of caution:
People can and do die from alcohol poisoning when they consume more alcohol than their body can safely process in a short period of time. Tragically, many young people succumb to alcohol poisoning every year due to ignorance about the facts of excess alcohol intake. Call 9-1-1 if you see someone exhibiting behavior that might indicate alcohol poisoning, evidenced by any of the following symptoms:

  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin
  • Unconscious or unable to be roused
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Puking repeatedly or uncontrollably
Posted in Safety

Cats & Dogs Christmas: Holiday videos just for fun

Many people say Christmas is for kids, but the real truth is that it’s gone to the dogs… and the cats. Come the holidays, YouTube is inundated with cute, funny pet videos. Here’s our take on the picks of the litter for 2015 – with a few classics thrown in.

The first is an ad, but it’s cute and well done.

Then we have the Animals of YouTube singing carols

In a slightly different vein, we see how wildlife celebrate the holidays

However you celebrate the holidays, have fun but stay safe!

Scam-apalooza! Don’t let fraud ruin your holiday

ruined-holidayThe CT commissioner of insurance warns policyholders of a recent insurance phone scam. People are getting calls that their insurance is cancelled and they need to make a credit card payment to reinstate their policy. The commissioner says: Never give out your credit card information to an unsolicited caller.

Good advice – particularly over the holiday. Scams are plentiful in the holiday season so keep your radar set on high. We’ve heard about fake shipping notifications, pyramid schemes, gift card scams, fake charities and plain old package theft. Don’t let scammers ruin your holiday – learn about the most common holiday fraud schemes.

General Alerts

Gift Card Scams

Package Theft

Delivery Scams

Charity Scams

Santa Scams

Holiday Pyramid Schemes

Holiday job Scams

General shopping & holiday safety

What to do if you have a car breakdown while on the road

car-breakdownIf you’re driving along and suddenly have a flat tire or some other car malfunction, it can be pretty unnerving, even downright scary if you’re on a highway or a remote location. The main thing to do in a car breakdown is to keep calm and get your vehicle safely off the road.  You can reduce the stress and uncertainty by planning for an emergency in advance so you’ll know just what to do.

Here are some tips we’ve amassed from experts.

Be prepared before you hit the road:

  • Be sure to have your phone fully charged when taking road trips
  • Have flares or reflective triangles in your trunk so you can have a way to indicate your car is in distress
  • Consider buying a cheap reflective vest to keep tucked under a seat so you would be visible if you do need to leave the car
  • Keep an emergency kit with seasonal supplies in your trunk
  • Have a plan in advance of what you’d do and who you’d call if you were to break down. Do you have an emergency road service plan or an auto-installed service? Does your insurer offer service? Or do you have an app to access emergency service? Plan in advance and keep phone numbers and any procedures or coverage rules in your glove compartment.
  • Learn about any state emergency road services. For example, Mass DOT has a Highway Assistance Patrol sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance. Here’s a list of state-by-state cellphone highway emergency assistance numbers.

If your car breaks down:

  • Put on your emergency/hazard lights at the first sign of trouble
  • Stay calm, slow down and get your car off the road. If possible, pull off at an exit, a street, or pull over to a breakdown lane
  • Pull as far off the road as is safe – keep emergency/hazard lights on. If it’s night time, turn on your interior light or flashlights
  • If you can safely do so, pop the hood or deploy flares or triangles to alert other drivers. Exit the door that is away from traffic – most likely on the passenger side
  • Do not stand in the road by your car; do not flag down other vehicles
  • In most circumstances, waiting in the vehicle with locked doors is safer than standing in the road, but you may need to use your best judgement depending on the specific location and situation, If you must wait outside, remove yourself from traffic and wait on the other side of the guardrail.
  • Call for help. If you aren’t sure of the exact location, your smart phone GPS may help. If you don’t have a roadside assistance plan, call state police.
  • If someone stops, crack your window enough to ask them to call the police for you
  • Wait for help. Avoid walking for help unless there is no other choice, and do so with extreme caution.

AAA has an in-depth guide covering trip planing, emergency supplies you should have on hand, and in-depth advice about what to do if you break down. Of course, their advice also focuses on how to reach them and what to expect – but even if you don’t have AAA, the guide has great information: What to do when your vehicle breaks down (PDF)

A summary of the main steps are:

  • Note your vehicle’s location
  • Assess your vehicle’s operating problem
  • Pull off the road
  • -What to do if you can’t pull off the road
  • Alert other motorists
  • Communicate your situation
  • Remain with your vehicle

The remaining tips have to do with AAA’s road service – what to expect, etc.

Consumer Reports has a recent article on Roadside Assistance: Who You Gonna Call? It covers apps, roadside services and insurers and where to get help when you break down. Another handy recent article is Hidden helpers in your phone, which covers some road travel apps.

Most Dangerous Toys, 2015 holiday edition

kids-at-christmasIf kids are on your holiday shopping list, toy safety should be rule number one. When Santa shops, he consults the W.A.T.C.H. list of the “10 Worst Toys” for the 2015 Holiday Season. This 43rd Annual Report is issued by World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.). This year, they have a special parental alert to be particularly careful of the dangers associated with online purchases of potentially harmful toys. The link above is a slideshow of you can get a PDF version of the dangerous toys with photos and information as to why they are classified as dangerous.

“Whether shopping in a retailer’s store or on their website, awareness of classic hidden toy hazards can prevent injuries. Shockingly, classic toy dangers, such as small parts, strings, projectiles, toxic substances, rigid materials, and inaccurate warnings and labels, resurface each year in newly designed toys. In the last twelve months, there have been at least sixteen (16) toy recalls representing over three million (3,000,000) units of toys with recognized safety defects in the United States and Canada proving the inadequacy of existing standards. In 2013, there were over 250,000 toy-related injuries and 50 children died in toy-related incidents between 2010 and 2013. Although even one injury to one child is too many, particularly when the injury is preventable, recent statistics emphasize that dangerous toys continue to pose a year-round threat. The ten (10) toy recalls due to choking and/or ingestion risks, issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the preceding twelve months, highlight the continued problem of small and ingestible parts reaching children.”

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group also issues a report on dangers to children in their 2015 Trouble in Toyland report, which lists both specific toys as well as general problem areas and dangers that parents should be alert for. See the press release for a summary.

More toy & child safety resources