ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England - Scents of cinnamon and gingerbread linger in the air. The brisk winter has set in, and Team Mildenhall airmen are seen wearing cold-weather gear as they move about base. Near the commissary, holiday decorations are up, and the base tree will be lit this afternoon.
Down the street, a family gathers for their after-Thanksgiving tradition.
"Deck the halls with boughs of holly," echoes throughout the house as a family trims their Christmas tree and lines their rooftop with decorative lights. "Tis the season to be jolly," continues the song. All is joyous and merry ... then.
Stop! How merry would your holiday season be if instead of decking your halls, you burned them down?
In this festive season, the 100th Air Refueling Wing Safety Office wants to remind Team Mildenhall to stay safe and protect their families and friends throughout December and into the New Year.
When decorating, people should keep in mind the types of decorations they are using and particular hazards that may be associated with them.
"For example, care should always be taken when dealing with electricity," said Senior Master Sgt. Angela Yoho, 100th ARW Safety Office. "Bottom line is 110 and 240 volts do not mix. Plugging a U.S. string of Christmas lights into your off-base home is very dangerous and should never be done. You also shouldn’t plug locally-purchased 240 volt strings into a 110 volt socket.”
Voltage is not the only consideration when considering electricity.
“When you use extension cords, ensure they are rated for the work being done,” continued Yoho. “For example, an extension cord used outside the home should be rated for outdoor use. Also, be sure not to plug an extension cord into another extension cord as daisy chaining or overloading outlets can cause a fire."
Artificial snow can also be a hazard, said the senior master sergeant. Be sure to follow the directions on the container carefully when spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces. These sprays can irritate the lungs if inhaled. Most sprays will contain safety or hazard warning on the container, heed the warnings.
Another danger common to the holidays are candles.
The safety office warns airmen to never use lighted candles near trees, boughs, curtains, drapes or with any potentially flammable item, said Yoho. For dormitory residents, use of candles is forbidden in any circumstance.
In addition to decorating, the holidays often mean preparing large meals for family and friends, according to the National Safety Council. Wash hands, utensils, sink and anything else that has come in contact with raw poultry. Keep in mind that a stuffed bird takes longer to cook.
The NSC also warns consumers to refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers (less than two inches deep) within two hours after cooking. Date the leftovers for future use.
Alcohol is another consideration airmen must make this season and throughout the year.
Often, the holidays are a time for airmen of age to attend social events and parties and often partake in the consumption of alcohol.
"Drinking in itself is not discouraged provided the airman is of age, responsible and does not overdo it," said Yoho. "The key is to party smart and have a sensible, pre-thought-out plan and stick to it because more than half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related."
Lastly, the holidays are a time to enjoy. Still, for many, according to the NSC, they are often the most stressful times of the year. Stress cannot be avoided completely. But, Team Mildenhall members can give themselves relief.
Allow enough time to shop rather than hurry through stores and parking lots, stated the NSC Web site. Only plan to do a reasonable number of errands. When shopping, make several trips out to the car to drop off packages rather than trying to carry too many items. Take time out for yourself. Relax, read, or enjoy your favorite hobby at your own pace.