The crisp weather and color-changing leaves make it a great time to spruce up your home, go for a drive, walk your pets or cozy up indoors. But with all those things comes the potential for danger. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings whether you live in the country or the city.
Here are some autumn safety tips for your family, home, car, and pets, for a safe and enjoyable fall season.
Get a flu shot. Even though you could still get sick after getting the shot, the vaccine can provide protection against severe complications from the flu.
Wash your hands. One of the best ways to avoid getting sick is to wash them regularly and thoroughly. Use hot water, plenty of soap, and wash for at least 30 seconds.
If you’re a workaholic and get sick, avoid going to work and spreading it to your team. Your boss and coworkers will thank you because group productivity won’t be at risk. It’s easier to deal with one person away from the office than several, all because you coughed on them.
When you’re outside and it’s chilly, wear a jacket. It sounds pretty basic, but you’d be surprised how many people think they’re “tough guys” walking around in a t-shirt when it’s 40 degrees out.
Raking leaves? Prevent back injuries by standing upright while raking and pull from your arms and legs. Don’t overfill leaf bags, and when picking them up, bend at the knee and use your legs, not your back, for support.
If you use a leaf blower, shield yourself. Wear appropriate clothing, eye protection, and work boots to prevent injury.
Do not allow children to play in leaf piles near the curb. The piles can obstruct the view of drivers and put your child at risk for getting hit, especially since it gets dark outside earlier.
Every month should be fire prevention month, but we tend to plug in a lot more devices in the fall and winter. It’s important to test all smoke alarms and have a family fire drill. Remember to replace used and expired fire extinguishers as well.
Turn your heater on before the temperatures really plummet so you can ensure it works. Contact a technician to inspect that it’s operating properly if you suspect it needs servicing.
Keep all flammable materials away from your furnace. This includes, clothing, paint products, toxic materials, cardboard and more.
If you use a portable or space heater, keep it away from clothing, bedding, drapery and furniture. Remember to shut them off if you leave the house and don’t leave them unattended if you have children or pets.
Do not use your space heater as a dryer for hats, gloves and other articles of clothing.
If you have a fireplace, inspect the chimney to confirm it is free of debris, creosote buildup, and is unobstructed so combustibles can vent. Make sure the bricks, mortar and liner are in good condition.
Do not warm your kitchen with a gas range or an open oven door, as this can lead to toxic air that is not safe to breathe.
Keep matches, lighters and candles out of the reach of children and pets.
When burning a candle, don’t leave them unattended, burning near other flammable items or on an unsteady surface.
Doing laundry? Avoid fires by cleaning filters after each load of wash and removing lint that collects in dryer vents.
Do a quick check for areas that may need repair before extreme weather hits: unsteady roof shingles, warped windowsills and concrete that might be sloping toward the house.
Check all outdoor lighting fixtures to make sure they are working properly. This can safeguard you against falls and neighborhood crime.
Clean your gutters by removing all debris and leaves.
Before burning leaves, check your city’s regulations, as it may be illegal where you live. If you burn them, do so away from the house and use proper containers.
With fewer hours of daylight, it can be difficult to see pedestrians or cyclists clearly, so if you don’t have automatic headlights, make sure they are on at the onset of dusk.
In the mornings, the sun can be extremely bright, making it difficult to see brake lights ahead. Keep a pair of sunglasses in your car to reduce glare and protect your vision.
Temperatures can also affect driving performance. Clear your windshield of frost before beginning your journey and turn on your defogger if necessary. Frost can also form on the road surface without being visible, so be cautious in wooded areas, bridges and overpasses, where ice can quickly develop. Remember, leaves + rain can also make for a very slippery surface!
Keep an emergency kit in your trunk. Some can be found in stores already pre-made for convenience, but if you want to create your own, be sure to include a flashlight, first-aid kit, jumper cables, windshield washer fluid and basic tools. You might even consider purchasing a car battery charger if you have a long commute each day.
In Michigan we have a saying – “Don’t veer for deer.” Meaning, don’t swerve! You could lose control of the car quickly, especially if you are on a curve or narrow road with little to no shoulder. Instead, brake firmly with both hands on the wheel to come to a controlled stop.
If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors or live outside, make sure that they are fed more often during cooler weather to help them retain body heat. If you live in a more rural area, and own farm animals like horses, have a place where non-frozen water is accessible to them.
While many mushrooms are non-toxic, some are poisonous for dogs and it’s difficult to tell the difference. To avoid mushroom poisoning, walk them in areas that do not have fungi growing, and if you see your pet ingest one, call your local animal poison control center or ASPCA immediately.
It’s apple-picking season! Thinking of bringing your pets to the cider mill? Watch that they don’t eat apple stems, leaves or seeds, as they can cause vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory problems, coma and possibly death, if too much is consumed.
Since pests tend to seek shelter from the cold indoors, you may decide to use some type of pest control chemical to keep them at bay. If you use them, particularly ones to kill rodents (rodenticides), keep them away from your pets, as even a small dose can be fatal, especially for dogs, if not treated immediately.
Make the fall season a happy and safe one by being prepared, having a high level of awareness and knowing the right resources to contact if you’re in doubt of what to do.