A good summer safety plan: Don’t be a lightning strike victim!

June 19 to June 25 is Lightning Safety Week. It’s good timing because we are approaching the heaviest lightning season. Hopefully, we’ve already had our fill of extreme weather this year, but there are no guarantees. In an average year, there are 57 fatal lightning strikes, most occurring in June, July and August. There have been 4 lightning fatalities so far this year – three of them occurring during agricultural work and one related to tornado search-and-rescue. The National Weather Service keeps track of lightning fatalities for the current year, as well as for prior years going back to 1959. Last year, there were 29 fatalities, a remarkably low year. The top 5 states for lightning fatalities over the past 10 years are Florida (62), Colorado (26), Texas (24), Georgia (19), and North Carolina (18).
Not everyone who is struck by lightning is killed – many survive to tell the tale. You can read some harowing stories of lightning strike survivors – there’s even a support group: Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors.
Your odds of being hit by lightning are about 1 in 700,000 – but experts all agree that you should take care not to make yourself a target. For a little motivation, you might visit Human Voltage, a page that NASA compiled to document what happens when people and lightning converge.
The National Weather Service has 5 simple words of safety advice: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!. We’re reprinting Here is their safety advice:

“There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Just remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries in the U.S.

The best way to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid the threat. You simply don’t want to be caught outside in a storm. Have a lightning safety plan, and cancel or postpone activities early if thunderstorms are expected. Monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the weather becomes threatening. Substantial buildings and hard-topped vehicles are safe options. Rain shelters, small sheds, and open vehicles are not safe.

When inside, do not touch anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet, plumbing, and corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe. Also, keep away from outside doors and windows and do not lie on a garage floor.

Lightning Victims: If someone is struck by lightning, they may need immediate medical attention. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch. Call 911 and monitor the victim. Start CPR or use an Automated External Defibrillator if needed.”

Additional resources:
Indoor Safety
Outdoor Safety
Lightning Safety on the Job
Lightning truths and myths

Behind the wheel: when being too polite is dangerous

In this day of road rage and road rudeness, it seems a little crazy to take issues with drivers who are polite — but in an article by Joseph Younger entitled When Courtesy Turns Dangerous, CarandTravel reminds us that there are times when politeness can inadvertently get you into trouble. This is generally at intersections or right of way situations. “Drivers who cede their legal right of way out of courtesy, thinking that they’re doing you a favor, might actually put you at risk.” They offer a handy list of “Dos and Don’ts” – if you are in the “courteous driver camp” it might make you think twice about the error of your ways; and if you are a recipient of such courtesy, it explains why a traffic favor may not be such a favor after all.

Rules of the Road Refresher
Safety Blog at Consumer Reports comments on this article, and says that the right thing to do in a “right of way” standoff is to follow the rules of the road. They post a handy list of “right of way” rules from New York.

Massachusetts right of way rules can be found in the driver’s manual. We’ve excerpted the main rules, but the manual offers a handy refresher for these and other traffic laws.

Intersections not controlled by signals
You must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle that has entered the intersection from your right or is approaching from your right.
Look for any traffic approaching from the left. Even though you may have the legal right-of-way, make sure that the other driver is yielding to you before you proceed.

Four-way stops
At an intersection controlled by stop signs in all directions, you must yield the right-of-way to…

  • Another vehicle that has already come to a full stop at the intersection
  • A vehicle on your immediate right that has stopped at the intersection at the same time as you

At a four-way stop, vehicles must proceed in the order they stopped. The first to stop is the next to go. If in doubt, give the right-of-way to the driver on your right.
Confusion can develop at four-way stop intersections. You should try to make eye contact with the drivers of other vehicles at the intersection to better judge their intentions and avoid accidents.

Turning Left
When making any left turn, you must first yield the right-of-way to any:

  • Oncoming vehicle
  • Vehicle already in the intersection
  • Pedestrians or bicyclists crossing your intended path of travel

Private Roads, Driveways, and Unpaved Roads
If you are entering a paved thoroughfare from a private road, a driveway, or an unpaved road, you must stop first and give the right-of-way to pedestrians, bicyclists, or vehicles traveling along the road you are entering.

If you approach a designated through-way, you must yield the right-of-way to traffic on the through-way before you turn.

Intersection of Single or Two-Lane Road and Multiple-Lane Road
If you are traveling on a single or two lane road and come to an intersection with a larger road, you must yield the right of way to vehicles driving on a divided highway or a roadway with three or more lanes.

Traffic moves in a counterclockwise direction around a rotary. You must always yield the right of way to vehicles already in the rotary (unless directed differently by local signs or police officers) and to pedestrians. You should use your turn signals in the same way as any other intersection: travel through the rotary and, when you are ready to exit, use your right turn signal.

Other situations that require you to yield the right-of-way

  • Pedestrians who are walking in or crossing a roadway
  • Any animal that someone is leading, riding, or driving
  • Funeral processions (in MA, it is against the law to disrupt or cut through a funeral procession)

Children’s auto booster seat ratings; child restraint laws

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has issued new ratings for children’s auto booster seats. They’ve examined 60 models covering almost all models sold in the U.S. right now, and they’ve issue 9 “best bet” recommendations and 4 “good bet” recommendations. In addition, they’ve indicated 11 products which aren’t aren’t recommended due to poor fit.
IIHS states that more than 1,000 children 12 and younger in passenger vehicles die in crashes every year, and more than 100,000 are injured. Parents can reduce the risk to their kids by properly securing them in the back seat of their vehicle.

“Parents can’t tell a good booster from a bad one just by comparing design features and price,” says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. “What really matters is if the booster you’re considering correctly positions the safety belt on your 4-8 year-old in your vehicle. Our ratings make it easier to pick a safer booster for kids who have outgrown child restraints.”

Don’t let Halloween turn into Nightmare on Your Street

Halloween is one of the nation’s most popular holidays. We love the annual ritual of scaring ourselves and our favorite kids silly, all in the spirit of good-natured fun. But as much fun as it can be, when you tally up the associated risks to kids, pets and property, the holiday can truly earn its nickname, “fright night.”

Potential problems
Unfortunately, kids experience a lot of injuries at Halloween. While the media can play up the dangers of poisoned candy and predators, the most common injuries to kids at Halloween are more pedestrian: eye injuries, burns, and being hit by cars. Other Halloween dangers include an increase in fatalities related to driving while under the influence; a high rate of fires, vandalism, and property crimes; and a spike in incidents of animal cruelty. For the property owner, there’s a veritable witches’ brew of liability issues. Any injuries that occur on your property can be considered your liability – whether it’s a little Cinderella who trips on her gown or a vandal who breaks his leg while egging your house. If partygoers drink too much alcohol while at your house, you may be held liable for any injuries that occur when they drive home. And if your teen’s Halloween “pranks” result in any property damage, you might have parental liability for the cost of that damage, depending on your state law. Other risks you may encounter include vandalism to your home or your auto and home fires triggered by candles and decorations or overloaded electrical outlets.
Most people enjoy a fun, safe Halloween and odds are in your favor that you will too. But there are simple steps you can and should take to minimize your risk and keep things safe. One thing you can do in advance is to check with your insurance agent to be sure your homeowners or rental insurance is up to date and that you have adequate protection. Find out your deductible (how much you have to pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in) and the extent of your liability coverage.
Keeping kids safe:

  • Equip kids with flashlights. Add day-glo or illuminating trim on their costumes.
  • Make sure costumes are fire-safe and flame-resistant.
  • Ensure costumes don’t impair vision or present a tripping hazard.
  • Masks can limit visibility – colorful face paints are a cute, creative, and safer alternative.
  • Make sure kids are dressed warmly enough and have comfortable, non-slip footwear.
  • Costume accessories and props should be short , pliable, and soft – no hard, long, pointy, or sharp objects
  • Inspect all candy before kids eat it. Be alert for choking hazards and watch for anything that is loose or unwrapped.
  • Don’t let kids walk while eating candy on a stick – very dangerous if they trip.
  • Don’t let kids eat homemade treats unless they were made by someone you know very well
  • Stick to familiar neighborhoods and familiar houses
  • Kids shouldn’t enter any homes unless they know the neighbors well
  • Kids without adults should keep in groups
  • Walk on sidewalks. Complete one side of the street, cross carefully, and complete the other side.
  • Use cross walks and crossing lights whenever possible.
  • Drive with great caution over the weekend, particularly after dark – excited little goblins may dart out from anywhere.

Other safety matters

  • When decorating, avoid candles – use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
  • Take care not to overload electrical circuits with lights.
  • Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
  • Keep porches and walkways well lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards; Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway.
  • Don’t forget about your pets – they could be upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish. Keep them inside and away from the door so they don’t frighten or nip at your guests.
  • Be careful not to let your pets eat candy, which can be toxic to them.
  • Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
  • Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.

Halloween vandalism can range from “mild” pranks to more serious and willful property damage. A well-lit house and motion-activated lights may help to protect your property. If you have a garage, keep you car locked up. If you don’t, you might want to check your car before bed or very early in the morning – that way, if your car has experienced any “mischief” such as a dousing of shaving cream, silly string, eggs, or other food matter, you may be able to hose it away before the sun bakes it in. Some of these substances can cause scratches or dents; others can be corrosive to your paint. Pressurized water from your hose is your best clean-up ally.

Call your agent
If you should suffer any damage to your property or have any accidents during Halloween weekend, file a claim as soon as possible to get the claim process in motion. Be ready with the details of where and when the event occurred, along with the names and addresses of any injured parties or witnesses to the event. If there is damage to your property, report it to the police, take photos, and record the details so you won’t forget them later.

Other helpful resources
Tricks for making your Halloween party safe
Driver safety tips for Halloween Eve
Halloween Car Cleanup Guide – how to remove eggs, shaving cream, silly string, and more.

September 26: National “Safety Saturday”

October is National Fire Safety Month. To kick things off, the Home Safety Council (HSC) is teaming up with Lowe’s to hold Safety Saturday on Saturday, September 26, 2009, a day-long safety celebration.
Lowe’s stores nationwide are planning family safety activities geared to educating you and your family on how to keep safe from fire and other home dangers. Some stores are partnering with local fire departments to host a side-by-side burn demonstration to show how quickly a home fire spreads and becomes deadly when it isn’t controlled. The demonstration compares the limited damage in a room that is protected with a home fire sprinkler system with the extensive damage that occurs in a room without a sprinkler.
Even if you can’t attend one of these events, the idea of dedicating a Saturday to making your home safer is a pretty good one. According to the HSC, the home is the second most common location of unintentional fatal injuries, with moving motor being the first. About 20% of all fatal injuries occur in the home. The top five leading causes of unintentional home injury death are falls, poisoning, fire/burn, choking/suffocation, and drowning; together these account for 90% of all unintentional home injury deaths. And for every one death, there are approximately 650 nonfatal injuries. HSC says that children under age 5 and adults over age 70 are the highest risk groups for home injury, both fatal and nonfatal.
HSC offers excellent Step-by-step Safety Guides on a variety of topics to help you safety-proof your home. They also offer a library of Safety videos for kids and adults.