Break Point!

Volume 3, Issue 12 View the Archives December, 2000
BreakPoint Celebrates the Holidays!
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Alcohol and Office Parties
Sobering Facts About Impaired Pedestrians
CPSC Urges Seasonal Furnace Inspection to Prevent CO Poisoning
Surf's Up- A guide To Internet Sites On The Web
Next Month in Injury Prevention

BreakPoint Celebrates the Holidays!

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

The holiday season is in full swing. The social calendar is filled with parties and holiday gatherings to attend. 'Tis the season of over-indulgence. This time of year we spend too much, we eat too much and sometimes we also drink too much. December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month (3D month). The 3D Prevention Month Coalition and its government partner the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, focuses attention on the impaired driving problem in December because that has traditionally been one of the worst times of the year. Between office parties, holiday receptions, family gatherings and New Year's Eve, the holiday season is a deadly time of the year.

This issue of Breakpoint will offer tips on planning safe and sober holiday parties and how to celebrate a safe Christmas. Christmas is such a happy and wonderful season .We owe it to ourselves and our families to keep this and every Christmas a safe and sober time.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 or email to: Kathy O'Day with any comments or questions.

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Christmas decorations can help brighten the holidays but misusing or using damaged decorations may lead to dangerous situations-such as injuries from shock or fires. According to the National Protection Association nearly six hundred fires each year are caused by Christmas tree lights and decorations, resulting in an average of 33 deaths, 117 injuries and 23 million dollars in property damage. Refer to this checklist when beginning your holiday decorating:

  • When buying a live Christmas tree, check the tree for freshness. A dry Christmas tree can lead to a greater risk of fire. Keep the Christmas tree holder filled with water to maintain longer tree life. Check freshness by pulling on the needles, bend a needle in half, if it breaks before bending in half, the tree is already quite dry.
  • Keep your tree a safe distance (at least three feet) from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heating vents and other sources of heat.
  • Before placing light strings inside or outdoors, check to see the lights bear the UL Mark. These products have been safety tested for risk of fire, shock and other hazards. Follow all of the manufacturer's instructions prior to hanging lighted decorations.
  • Before plugging in newly purchased electrical decorations or those used during previous seasons, carefully inspect each decoration. Check for cracked sockets, frayed, loose or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace damaged items with new decorations.
  • Unplug light strings and electrical decorations before replacing light bulbs or fuses.
  • Keep light strings and electrical decorations away from the reach of children.
  • Never connect more than three stands of lights to one extension cord.
  • Turn off all lighted decorations prior to going out or to bed. Do not leave lighted decorations unattended.
  • Do not use electric lights on metallic trees. Use spotlights to illuminate metal trees.
  • Make sure your home is equipped with working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in case of fire. Make sure you have a fire escape plan for your family.

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Alcohol and Office Parties

It is becoming a tradition for employers to have an office Christmas party. Many companies and small businesses throw a party for their employees before the holidays. The parties range from a casual dinner to an elegant affair. Although employers want to treat their employees to a night out, employers are also responsible to their staff to provide a  safe gathering.

In Illinois, 35% of all alcohol-related fatalities had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10 or higher. Nationwide, over 41,611 people were killed and 3.24 million were injured in alcohol-related crashes in 1999.

When planning an event at which you will be serving alcoholic beverages, there are certain basic but important steps that you should take to make sure your guests enjoy themselves and get home safely. These steps will remind your employees that you care about their safety:

  • Consider having a non-alcoholic party, or, if alcohol is served, stop serving it at least one hour before the end of the party.
  • If alcohol is to be served, food should also be served to slow down the effects of alcohol. Salty foods should be avoided, however, since they cause a person to drink more.
  • Hire caterers who have a liquor license and who are experienced in monitoring alcohol consumption.
  • If a private caterer is not hired, then one or two employees should be designated to serve the alcohol. These employees should be management level because non-management employees may feel intimidated telling their supervisor or even a co-worker that he or she has had too much to drink.
  • The people serving alcohol must not drink. This impairs their ability to judge other people’s sobriety.
  • Before the party, choose non-drinking co-workers as designated drivers and have the party at a location convenient to public transportation or cabs.
  • Employers could reserve a block of hotel rooms if having their parties at a hotel to provide a safe place to stay for their employees.

One myth about drinking and driving is that serving coffee helps people become sober. It will not. Only time can reduce the effects of alcohol on a person.

Office parties are a traditional way for employees to socialize and relax with their co-workers during the holidays. Serving alcohol responsibly at office parties helps make sure we are all here for the New Year.

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Sobering Facts About Impaired Pedestrians

Most people know that you should not drive impaired, but what many people may not know is that excessive drinking can have the same deadly consequences for pedestrians. Almost one-third of all pedestrians who die in traffic-related crashes are intoxicated and alcohol involvement either for the driver or for the pedestrian is reported in nearly one-half of all pedestrian fatalities.

There has been a reduction in traffic crashes involving alcohol- impaired drivers over the past decade. Unfortunately, this same reduction has not always occurred for alcohol-related fatal crashes involving adult pedestrians. These pedestrians tend to have very high blood alcohol levels and to be chronic alcohol abusers.

Because there is no legal blood alcohol limit for pedestrians, many of the enforcement tools available to combat impaired driving are not applicable to pedestrians. In fact, it is often difficult for law enforcement agencies to intervene and take obviously intoxicated pedestrians into safe custody (Sandoff, 1992).

  • As a motorist, watch for sudden unexpected movements by pedestrians. Scan the road widely and often. Prepare for the unexpected. Slow down!
  • If you know someone who has been drinking and planning to walk home, call them a cab or offer to drive or escort them, even if it is only a short distance.
  • Remember as a pedestrian, alcohol slows your reaction time, impairs judgment and affects your alertness and coordination. It can also effect your vision.
  • Limit how much alcohol you consume, especially if you plan to walk. Do not fool yourself about your ability to walk in traffic safely.
  • Be more visible to traffic by carrying a flashlight or wearing retro-reflective clothing at night. During the day, wearing bright colors is best. Wearing white, especially at night is not enough.

The holidays should be a time of enjoyment with family and friends. Remember to drink responsibly for a healthy and happy holiday season.

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CPSC Urges Seasonal Furnace Inspection to Prevent CO Poisoning

As the home heating season approaches, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges consumers to have a professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances, including furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers and space heaters, to detect deadly carbon monoxide (CO) leaks.

These appliances burn fuel, typically gas, both natural and liquefied petroleum, kerosene, oil, coal and wood. Under certain conditions, these appliances can produce deadly CO. However, with proper installation and maintenance, they are safe to use.

CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fuel. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu and include; headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Exposure to high levels of CO can cause death.

“CO poisoning associated with using fuel burning appliances kills more than 200 people per year and send more than 10,000 people to the emergency department for treatment” said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown.

CPSC recommends that the yearly professional inspection include checking chimneys, flues and vents for leakage and blockage. Leakage through cracks or holes could cause black stains on the side of the chimney or flue. These stains can mean that pollutants are leaking into the house. In addition, have all vents to furnaces, water heaters, boilers, and other fuel-burning appliances checked to make sure they are not loose or disconnected.

CPSC recommends that every home should have at least one CO alarm that meets the most recent standards and guidelines.

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Surf's Up- A guide To Internet Sites On The Web

National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month Activities

Since it’s inception, this website has provided ideas, activities, and tips to help prevent impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel.

There are also links to other traffic-minded websites for additional information.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

Nationwide organization of people determined to stop drunk driving and support the victims drunk driving crashes.

A versatile website for all involved with drunk driving. The site provides statistics, program information and victims assistance. Look up the MADD chapter in your state.

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)

An excellent article from the NFPA on winterizing your home and holiday safety tips to prevent fires from holiday decorations.

Santa’s Holiday Safety Tips

A fun website that has something for the whole family. There are safety tips for the holidays as well as Christmas coloring pages, sheet music and words to your favorite Christmas carols. There are links to other Christmas websites to add to the fun.

*It is important to note that children who have access to the Internet should get permission from their parents first. Parents should observe their children while they use the Internet to help them avoid dangerous situations while they surf.

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • Impaired Driving enforcement Weekend (July 1-4).
  • National Sobriety Checkpoint Week (June 25-July 5).

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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