Taking a few precautions during the daylight today and tomorrow will help ensure a ghoul-proof Halloween night that’s more about treats and less about tricks.
Costumed kids will be out en masse Thursday night, and a spoonful of caution can help prevent a trick-or-treat bag full of emergency room visits.
“Make sure the walkways are lighted if possible, and free of obstructions like flower pots or lawn decorations,” said Sylacauga State Farm Agent Albia Steers. “Do what you can to keep kids from tripping and getting hurt. If there are holes in your yard where a child could twist an ankle, mark them or fill them up.”
And on the front porch, Steers suggests putting a glow stick or battery-powered light in your pumpkin rather than a candle.
“Another thing to watch out for is extension cords,” Steers said. “A lot of Halloween decorations are electric. Just make sure the cords are not anywhere near a walkway,” he said.
He also suggested thwarting goblins by taking a walk around your house to make sure there’s nothing of value that’s easily removable. Also, lock your cars and make sure tools and other valuables in pickup trucks are secured.
Another way to stay safe in your home is to not open the door if you feel threatened, said Talladega Police Lt. Patrick Thornton.
“You don’t have to open your door if you don’t want to. If someone seems suspicious, just turn off the light until they go away,” Thornton said.
He said many Halloween safety tips are so basic and repeated that everyone knows them, but they still bear repeating.
“Children should make sure the adults they are with know where they are at all times. Look both ways before you cross the street. Every time you cross the street. And don’t eat anything until an adult inspects it.”
Adults checking candy should discard any pieces that have been opened or have the contents exposed in any way, Thornton said.
He suggested that children wrap up their outdoor activities by 8 p.m. to give parents plenty of time to check treats before it’s time for toothbrushes and pajamas.
Sylacauga pediatrician Dr. Rekha Chadalawada said Halloween sees more children hit by cars than any other time of year, and Sylacauga Police Chief Chris Carden said that’s because Halloween traffic is the heaviest traffic of the year in many residential neighborhoods. He recommends crossing streets only at corners, using crosswalks where available.
“Pay attention to cars that are stopped. A lot of people trick-or-treat from cars now, so they pull up and let their kids out. If you’re crossing the street or stepping off the sidewalk, those cars may start moving.”
Carden and other community helpers unanimously recommend using reflective safety tape on shoes, costumes, trick-or-treat bags, pet collars, and everywhere else you can put it.
Other universal recommendations include turning off the light if your house is not welcoming trick-or-treaters, not approaching houses where the lights are off, never entering the home of someone you don’t know, and never accepting a ride with anyone you don’t know.
“If you’re out driving, even if you’re not participating in trick-or-treating, be mindful that there will be more people on the roads,” Carden said. “Some costumes may not be reflective. Go slow, be cautious and don’t drink and drive.”
Childersburg Police Chief Doug Wesson also recommends that each trick-or-treater have a lighting device, be it a flashlight or a glow stick.
Most area police departments are planning neighborhood patrol details on Halloween, keeping an eye out for trouble in some of the busier neighborhoods. Talladega police will also have a presence at the Halloween event on the Courthouse Square that begins at 5 p.m.
When putting costumes together, Chadalawada suggests using short, soft swords with costumes that call for swords, and making sure to hem or safety-pin costumes to a proper length to prevent tripping.
She referred to literature from the American Academy of Pediatrics that also recommends costumed children wear flat shoes or sneakers that fit well, and noted that face paint allows for better vision than masks.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to take some precautions where the pets are concerned, said Dr. Sarah Smith, veterinarian at Sleeping Giant Animal Clinic in Talladega.
“Keep pets away from the candy, that’s for sure,” she said. “Keep them indoors so they’re not bothered by all the outdoor activity. Sometimes it’s helpful to keep them in a quiet place in a separate room in the house so they’re not disturbed by the knocking and ringing of the doorbell.
“Be sure they have identification on them if they’re outdoor pets, and make sure they have reflective collars and tags with contact information.”
Caution should also be taken with pet costumes, Smith said.
“It’s cute, but some dogs don’t like it. If you put a costume on your pet, be sure to stay with them constantly to make sure they don’t get entangled. Be sure it doesn’t have small parts that could cause choking or obstructions. And just like for kids, don’t let it obstruct their vision or hearing.”
If you think your pet could benefit from a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to get through the stressful All Hallows Eve, consult your own veterinarian beforehand and get such medications from a veterinarian, Smith said.