October 31 is quickly approaching, and little ghosts, ghouls and goblins are no doubt already thinking about the candy windfalls to come.  But before your children and their friends haunt your homeowners association shouting “trick or treat,” it’s essential to take precautions to keep everyone safe. 
To help, we’ve compiled some very effective Halloween safety tips and guidelines from Safe Kids Worldwide and the Centers for Disease Control. Follow these Halloween safety tips and share them with your neighbors to help ensure everyone in your community has a frightfully good time.

1. Dress up for safety.

Your child’s Halloween costume can be scary, funny, clever or mischievous – the only requirement is that it’s safe. Make sure it’s made of flame retardant materials, and remember that brighter colors are better than darker ones for nighttime visibility.  If your child’s costumer is dark, add strips of reflective tape to the material and have them carry glow sticks and a flashlight – actually, those are fun and safe complements for any costume.  Be sure your child’s costume fits well and doesn’t drag on the floor – trips and falls are a concern – and if a mask is part of the look, it should not impede breathing or vision.  If your child plans to wear makeup or attach fake facial hair with spirit gum adhesive, test a small amount in advance to test for sensitivities or allergies.  And as a special precaution, affix a name tag to the costume that includes your name and phone number in case your child gets separated from you.

2. Stay alert.

Teach your children how to navigate the streets and sidewalks safely – and model good behavior by following safety rules yourself. That means cross only at traffic signals, crosswalks and corners, never in the middle of the street, and look both ways before crossing – that means left, right and then left again.  Tell your kids to walk instead of run and make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of their cars to make sure they see you. Stay on sidewalks and paths, and if there aren’t any, walk on the edge of the road facing traffic to see and avoid oncoming cars. Parked cars can be dangerous too – tell your kids never to dart between them, and to watch for motorists who are turning or backing up, and may not see them. And here’s what may be the scariest tip of all for kids:  tell them to put their mobile devices down while walking through the neighborhood...their heads should be up and they should be alert at all times.  

3. Trick-or-treat with caution.

If you plan to allow your older kids – say 12 or above – to go out on their own, make sure they stay in a group, have a cell phone handy for emergencies, and stick to a familiar neighborhood. Know what route they’ll be taking and set a time they need to be home. If your kids are younger than 12, they must always be accompanied by an adult. And no matter how old they are, kids must never enter a stranger’s home or vehicle.

4. Consider safety before “goblin” up your candy.

Inspect all treats before your children dive into the year’s biggest sugar-fest. Make sure all items are factory-sealed and not tampered with in any way. Discard any homemade treats provided by people you don’t know. For young children, remove all items that may present a choking hazard. And most of all, don’t let your little ones overindulge – nothing spoils a great Halloween like a tummy ache.

5. Carve with care.

Carving jack-o'-lanterns can be a fun family activity, but young children must never be allowed to handle knives.  Instead, have them draw a design on a pumpkin with a marker, then let an older sibling or parent do the actual carving.  Little ones love to scoop out the pumpkin “guts” – just make sure they use a safe implement, like a spoon or an ice cream scoop, and be sure to clean up any slippery messes promptly to avoid falls.  And as a final touch, illuminate your jack-o’-lantern with glow sticks or flameless candles, rather than candles, to avoid creating fire hazards. 

6. Keep your own haunts safe.

When decorating your home in its spooky finest, keep fire safety top of mind.  Avoid decorating with candles – like we advised with jack-o’-lanterns, flameless candles or glow sticks can be just as spooky.  If you plan to use electronic decorations, check them for faulty or weathered wiring before flipping the switch.  And be sure to keep your walkway and doorways clear and well-lit to prevent little ghosts and ghouls from scary falls.

7. Use extra caution while driving.

Popular trick-or-treating hours are from 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. so be sure to drive slowly and remain extra alert when driving through HOA or other residential neighborhoods during prime time – or any time. Exercise extra care when backing up or exiting driveways – a brief cautionary honk can alert pedestrians to your presence and intentions.  And because it can be difficult to see clearly at dusk, turn on your headlights before it gets dark to ensure you spot any trick-or-treaters on the move.

Halloween is all about enjoying good times and spooky fun with friends and family – a time when it’s especially important for kids of all ages to focus on safety.  By following these Halloween safety tips, you’ll help your kids enjoy the treats, without any of the tricks.  To learn more about how to keep your family safe this Halloween, visit Safe Kids Worldwide or the Centers for Disease Control.

Thursday October 22, 2015