Having 'safe' fun stressed for Halloween

There will be many Halloween-related events going on in and around La Porte County over the next few weeks, including the Haunted Trails and Family Fall Fest on Saturday afternoon at Friendship Botanic Gardens. For a list of some of the upcoming fun and spooky events for children and adults, see Page A4.

MICHIGAN CITY – Halloween is a popular time for fun and festivities, but it also carries the potential for a variety of safety and fire hazards.

With the big night just a few weeks away, the Michigan City Police Department and the National Fire Protection Association want to make sure everyone is safe while enjoying their holiday decorations, parties and other festivities, especially trick-or-treating with the youngsters.

“Halloween brings an opportunity to wear fun costumes, decorate our homes, and eat too much candy,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “However, without proper safety precautions, we run the risk of turning good times into the wrong kind of scary ones.”

The MCPD will have extra patrols all across the city during approved trick-or-treating hours of 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31, and offers the following trick-or-treating tips to assure children are safe:

• Plan your route ahead of time

• Trick-or-treat in familiar neighborhoods

• Carry a flashlight with fresh batteries after dark

• Always trick or treat in groups, accompanied by an adult

• Follow the correct hours of trick-or-treating

• Respect people who do not want to participate

• Stay on the sidewalks and out of the streets

• Cross streets only at intersections and designated crosswalks

• Walk; do not run

• Don't trample through flower beds and gardens

• Watch out for open flames in pumpkins

• Walk with your head up and be aware of your surroundings

• Only visit well lit houses, and don't stop if the house is dark

• Don't enter any houses unless you know the people

• Carry a spare Halloween bag, in case yours breaks or you fill your original one

• Don't approach unfamiliar pets and animals

• Don't cut across yards and stay out of backyards

• Obey traffic signals and don't jaywalk

• Always watch for cars backing up or turning

• Review the "stop, drop and roll" procedure in case your costume catches on fire

• Never accept rides from strangers

• Respect other people and their property

• Be polite and say "thank you"

• Don't eat any candy until it's inspected by your parents

• Avoid candy that has loose wrappings, is unwrapped, has puncture holes, or is homemade

• Don't carry fake swords, guns, knives or similar accessories that look authentic; and make sure props are flexible and cannot harm anyone

• Report any suspicious or criminal activity to an adult or the police

The NFPA also encourages everyone to take some simple precautions to stay safe.

According to organization research, between 2012 and 2016, decorations were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 800 reported home structure fires per year, resulting in an average of two civilian deaths, 34 civilian injuries and $11 million in direct property damage. The decoration was too close to a heat source, such as a candle or equipment, in almost half of these fires.

NFPA offers these tips to stay safe during the spooky season:

• Costumes: Avoid fabric that billows or trails behind you, as these can easily ignite. If you are making your own costume, avoid loosely woven fabrics like linen and cotton, which can be very flammable.

• Decorations: Many common decorations like cornstalks, crepe paper and dried flowers are very flammable. Keep these and similar decorations far from open flames or heat sources, like candles, heaters, and light bulbs.

• Candles: Using candles as decorations can be risky if not done correctly. Keep them in a well-attended area out of the path of potential trick-or-treaters. Remind children of the dangers of open flames, and make sure they are supervised at all times when candles are lit. Extinguish candles before leaving an area.

• Jack-o-lanterns: Glow sticks or electric candles are the safest choice when it comes to lighting up your jack-o-lantern, but if you choose to use a real candle, do so with extreme caution. Light a candle inside a jack-o-lantern using long fireplace matches or a utility lighter, and keep it away from other decorations.

• Visibility: Give children flashlights or glowsticks for lighting, these can even be incorporated into the costume. If your child has a mask, ensure the eye holes are large enough for them to see clearly.

• Exits: Exits are not appropriate places for decorations. When decorating, ensure nothing is blocking any escape routes.

Most of all, according to MCPD Chief Mark Swistek and his staff: "Have fun and be safe."

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