'Tis the season to think safety

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace) Images courtesy of Jupiter Images/copyright 2009

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace) Images courtesy of Jupiter Images/copyright 2009

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Scents of cinnamon and gingerbread linger in the air. The brisk winter has set in, and Gunfighters are seen wearing cold-weather gear as they move about base.

Near the commissary, holiday decorations are up, and the base tree will be lit this afternoon at the chapel, following a parade.

Down the street, a family gathers for their after-Thanksgiving tradition.

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly," echoes throughout the house as a family trims their Christmas tree and lines their rooftop with decorative lights. "Tis the season to be jolly," continues the song. All is joyous and merry ... then.

Stop! How merry would your holiday season be if instead of decking your halls, you burned them down?

In this festive season, the 366th Fighter Wing Safety Office wants to remind all Gunfighters to stay safe and protect their families and friends throughout December and into the New Year.

When decorating, people should keep in mind the types of decorations they are using and particular hazards that may be associated with them.

"For example, care should always be taken when dealing with electricity," said Master Sgt. Xavier Lawson, 366th FW Safety Office superintendent. "Daisy chaining significantly increases the chances of fires, as does using incorrectly rated cords, plugs and extensions."

For example, an extension cord used outside the home should be rated for outdoor use, said Lawson. Also, be sure not to plug an extension cord into another extension cord as daisy chaining or overloading outlets can cause a fire.

Artificial snow can also be a hazard, said the master sergeant. Be sure to follow the directions on the container carefully when spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces. These sprays can irritate the lungs if inhaled. Most sprays will contain safety or hazard warning on the container, heed the warnings.

Another danger common to the holidays are candles.

The safety office warns Airmen to never use lighted candles near trees, boughs, curtains, drapes or with any potentially flammable item, said Lawson. For dormitory residents, use of candles is forbidden in any circumstance.

In addition to decorating, the holidays often mean preparing large meals for family and friends, according to the National Safety Council. Wash hands, utensils, sink and anything else that has come in contact with raw poultry. Keep in mind that a stuffed bird takes longer to cook.

The NSC also warns consumers to refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers (less than two inches deep) within two hours after cooking. Date the leftovers for future use.

Alcohol is another consideration Airmen must make this season and throughout the year.

Often, the holidays are a time for Airmen of age to attend social events and parties and often partake in the consumption of alcohol.

"Drinking in itself is not discouraged provided the Airman is of age, responsible and does not overdo it," said Lawson. "The key is to party smart and have a sensible, pre-thought-out plan and stick to it because more than half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related."

Lastly, the holidays are a time to enjoy. Still, for many, according to the NSC, they are often the most stressful times of the year. Stress cannot be avoided completely. But, Gunfighters can give themselves relief.

Allow enough time to shop rather than hurry through stores and parking lots, stated the NSC Web site. Only plan to do a reasonable number of errands. When shopping, make several trips out to the car to drop off packages rather than trying to carry too many items. Take time out for yourself. Relax, read, or enjoy your favorite hobby at your own pace.

With common sense, the holiday season can be joyous for all of Team Mountain Home. For information, call the 366th FW Safety Office at 828-1801.