On Saturday, Oct. 31, we celebrate Halloween and there is no real trick to making the holiday a treat for the entire family. The major dangers are not from witches or spirits but rather from being incautious and unprepared. Children and adults need to think about safety on this annual day of make-believe, so now is the time to start a conversation with your kids.
Before children under 12 start out on their trick-or-treat rounds, parents should make sure an adult or an older, responsible youth supervises the outing. Teach your children to stop only at houses or apartment buildings that are well lit, and never to enter a stranger’s home. Tell your children not to eat any treat until they return home. Pin a slip of paper with the child’s name; address and phone number inside a pocket in case the youngster gets separated from the group.
Only fire-retardant materials should be used for costumes, which should be loose so clothes can be worn underneath. Costumes should not be so long that they are a tripping hazard. Falling is the leading cause of unintentional injuries on Halloween.
If children are allowed out after dark, outfits should be made with light-colored materials. Strips of retro-reflective tape should be used to make children visible.
Face design masks can obstruct a child’s vision. Use facial make-up instead. If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes.
Knives, swords and other accessories should be made from cardboard or flexible materials. Do not allow children to carry sharp objects. Bags or sacks carried by youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape. Carrying flashlights will help children see better and be seen more clearly. If your child has a cellphone, make sure your local police department number is programmed in case they need to call the police.
Give children an early meal before going out. Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten. When in doubt, throw it out.
If you live alone, and someone knocks on your door and you are not comfortable opening it, just say “Sorry, I have no treats.” Do not stay quiet or shut off the lights. It is better to have the porch light on so you can see who is there. Having lights on is extremely important just in case someone wants to be mischievous. If you have any concerns, please call your local police.
If you choose not to trick or treat in your neighborhood, there are many places sponsoring special events; check with your local police department. If you live in unincorporated Miami-Dade, each county police district will be hosting an event, so call them for details or contact our office.
Drivers need to be extra careful in their neighborhoods. Drive slowly because you never know if a child will dash out in front of you, which is why parents really need to keep a good grip on small children.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.