Halloween is a great time to let the kids dress up, eat way too much sugar and get a little spooked. Everyone has fun watching little (and sometimes not so little) ghouls, goblins, vampires and witches enjoy the chance to be someone or something different. But in the middle of all the fun, it’s important to not lose your head and to use your brain for something other than zombie bait.
Here are ten tips to help make your Halloween a fun "undertaking" for everyone!
Situational Awareness. Safety always starts with a situational awareness mindset. This applies to everything in life – holidays, events, or simply walking through your neighborhood. Be aware of your surroundings and always take time to look and listen to what is happening around you; these are the most important things you can do to stay safe. If you hear or see something that seems out of place, don’t ignore it.
Think those loud noises are fireworks? Ask yourself if fireworks are normal for the event. At a concert or July 4th, perhaps; graduation or at the mall, no.
See someone in a costume mask in June? Walking into a bank? Trust your instincts and avoid that situation.
See and Be Seen. Costumes, especially masks, are great fun, but it is important that everyone try them on before Halloween. Have children put on their mask and then look left and right to make sure they can see. Most masks don’t allow for good peripheral vision, so have your kids practice moving their heads up and down and side to side to make sure they’ll be able to watch for vehicles.
It’s great to wear something dark and scary as long as others can still see you. Reflective tape placed high and at waist level on the front and back of a costume ensures that everyone can be seen and stay safe. It may not look “cool” to your teens, but remind them we only want to PRETEND to be a ghost .
Finally, make sure the costume is appropriate. This is especially important for pre-teens and teens. Scary is fine but costumes should not look threatening. Many schools are putting limits on wearing costumes to school. In today’s climate, be mindful of what your kids are wearing. Make sure that their costumes are fun and appropriate for the occasion, but won’t evoke true fear in other people.
Safety Briefing. We spend time teaching our kids not to take candy from strangers, and then dress them up on Halloween to do just that. It’s worth taking time to have an age-appropriate discussion about the difference in the rules. It is also a good idea to remind them of a few key ones, such as “only cross the street when I'm with you,” or “if you get lost, this is where we will meet.” If you are going to a public event or party, teach them about “Run-Hide-Fight” and the importance of getting to safety. Remind them to have fun, but follow the rules!
Adult Supervision. Keeping track of a pack of princesses or a squad of superheroes can be a challenge, but even more so if the promise of candy is involved. Try to keep the adult to child ratio around 1:5, and don’t forget to do a quick head count before starting off to the next house.
It’s also important to let others see that you are with your kids. It’s okay to let kids go up to the door, but stand where you can see them and where you can be seen. Ensuring others can see that you’re supervising this gaggle of ghouls puts everyone at ease, and also helps deter anyone intent on harm.
If you are letting your teens go off on their own, make sure they have their phones (when don’t they?!) and that they check-in with you, often. It’s also okay to set boundaries – both literal and figurative – of where they can go and how you expect them to behave. And don’t forget to have them turn on “Find My,” a mobile application that allows you to track their location. Find My and other similar apps are a great way to make sure everyone is safe.
Be Prepared. Everyone should have some form of light: glow stick, flashlight, or cell phone. Remember, it’s dark and you’re walking on foot while cars are zooming by. Make sure you can see those bumps in the sidewalk so the kids don’t trip – or to make sure those tree roots aren’t actually skeletons reaching out from their graves.
Adults should have a flashlight, a cell phone, and a properly equipped first aid kit. You need to be prepared to respond to any life-threatening event, so the first aid kit should be equipped with an age-appropriate tourniquet, and you should know how to use it. If you don’t know if your tourniquet is right – or you don’t know how to use one – Con10gency can help.
Don't Go into the House. While the gateway between the land of the living and the great beyond may be open at Halloween, the threshold of strangers’ houses should never be crossed. Make sure your kids know that they should never go into a house to get candy. Teach them how to politely say “No” and walk away; there is never a good reason to step into the house.
This applies to homes that have set-up a haunted house in the garage. If anyone wants the thrill of an extra scare, it’s better to go through a professional haunted house where they will have safety measures, tested equipment, and access to AEDs and medical supplies.
Stay in Groups. This probably goes without saying for taking the little ones door-to-door, but, as teens get older, they want more freedom and may not want you along. Use your best judgement based on their maturity level, everyone’s familiarity with the location, and the size of the group. You may decide to park at one end of the street and let them run the gauntlet and make their way back, but set some guidelines. Make sure they stick together, have their cell phones with them to check-in with you, and that you have all agreed how far they will go and when they will return.
The buddy system applies to adults at parties, too. If you are drinking, remember to never leave your drink unattended, stay together, and don’t overdo it, no matter how much those “spirits” tempt you. If you do, think about the safety of little ones crossing the street in a dark neighborhood and don’t drink and drive. Catch a cab or use a ride share to get home. You won’t regret it.
Keep it Light. Most of us know the trick-or-treat code: if the house light is on, it’s open and ready to hand out candy. If a house is dark, or you just can’t tell, it’s okay to move along to the next one.
For smaller children, consider some other, more well-lit alternatives; many police stations and firehouses offer “Trunk-or-Treat,” an event that provides a safe, secure environment without sacrificing fun or tasty treats.
If you are staying in, stock up on the candy, turn the lights on, and get ready to enjoy the evening. Be a good host and make sure the path to your door is well lit and clear to make things as safe as possible for everyone who is coming to your door. If you aren’t in the festive mood, turn off your exterior lights and enjoy your privacy, but keep an ear out for anyone who might truly need help.
Go Where You Know. Teens have all heard about the neighborhood that gives out the full-size candy bar or handfuls of candy. As tempting as that is, it’s better to stay in areas you where you are more familiar with the streets and the neighbors.
Beware of Dog. We have all seen how cute dogs can be when they are dressed up, but sometimes Fluffy isn’t happy in that little tutu. Add a lot of activity to the mix, a strange place and even stranger faces coming to their door, and the friendliest Fido can suddenly become Cujo. In your safety briefing, instruct your kids to pass up the chance to pet someone’s dog no matter how cute it may be. If you have a dog, consider helping it not get stressed and find a quiet(er) room for it to relax in until the parade of monsters dies (down).
As initially noted, safety starts with situational awareness and being prepared. Don’t be in denial. If the worst happens, make sure you are prepared. Talk to your kids about “Run-Hide-Fight”, get trained in proper life-saving techniques like Stop the Bleed®, and carry the right equipment with you. Proper situational awareness can help everyone enjoy the event with peace of mind.
We always do our best to avoid a bad situation and while following these ten tips can help, sometimes the unexpected happens. With proper preparation and our go-to steps to safety, YOU can be the initial responder to your emergency event. Always be prepared, and always have a Con10gency.
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