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Accidents are not accidents.

Safety is not an accident.

Your choices and decisions can keep you safe and prevent accidents in everything from do-it-yourself projects to holiday celebrations. Neglect strategic thinking and bad things can happen.

The vortex of distractions that plague us during this not-quite-post-recession and not-quite-recovery period can lead us to overlook and undervalue simple, constructive decision-making that could make any “now” the best it can be.

Not making a conscious choice to act proactively is a decision. Before the added stress of holiday season kicks in, match your conscious and unconscious decision-making against these 5 Sharp Thinking Strategies and their safe-holiday examples:

  • Anticipate accidents instead of taking safety for granted
    1. The holiday season brings increased risk of home fire from faulty strings of lights, overloaded circuits, flammable decorations and unattended candles. Which precautions do you take?
    2. Do you have a set plan for ensuring life-saving smoke alarms are always working in top form?
    3. How does home maintenance fit into your plans? Regular furnace maintenance is a preventive measure that protects against deadly, invisible carbon monoxide (CO) while CO alarms provide essential back-up warnings.
  • Think for yourself and stop waiting to be told how to function smartly
    1. As a car driver, do you wear your seatbelt and concentrate on driving, not using your cell and other technology? Or, as more jurisdictions implement cellphone-distraction laws, has the threat of fines made these decisions for you?
    2. Do you continue to fill your home and lungs with cigarette smoke, or have you weighed the advantages—from improved health to lowered expenses—of being a non-smoker and taking control? This is just one interior air quality hazzard. The air in our homes can be more polluted than outside air. What have you done to ensure your home is free of radon, mould and other airborne health risks?
  • Plan to preserve life, wellbeing and independence whatever happens Quickly—imagine the smoke alarm outside your bedroom sounded in the middle of the night! What would your automatic reaction be as it awakens you and family members? Is this the safest reaction? Does every member of your family know at least two ways out of the house from every location? For tips on fire drills and suggestions for overcoming the hazards found in each room in your home, not just the kitchen, visit https://www.safeathome.ca/toptips.htm and read my previous column “Canadian Organizations Promote Holiday Cheer Through Home Safety ( House Exterior Other Sidings and Issues, Soffits and Fascia, Windows and Doors, Trim, Flashings and Caulking, Exterior Structures ).”
  • Apply forward thinking to everyday decisions and stay on the winning side Horrifying televised natural and man-made disasters, combined with your experience in storms and disasters has taught you the value of emergency preparedness. You have at least 72-hours worth of water for each family member, back-up food and batteries, or a generator, all safely stored away, haven’t you? If not, what has taught you that choice is smarter?
  • Avoid the self-defeating habit of learning the hard way from bad experiences Veteran firefighter John Gignac learned the hard way in December 2008 when his niece, her husband and their two children died in their sleep from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. There was no CO alarm to save the family and, at the time, Gignac did not have a CO alarm in his home either. This silent, odourless, deadly gas does not give you a chance to learn from personal experience—unless the CO leak triggers fully-operational CO detectors which sound the alarm. Days after the 2008 CO disaster, Woodstock, Ontario reportedly sold out of CO detectors. Gignac said his relatives’ deaths were his wake up call. He has founded the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO safety ( www.endthesilence.ca ) to wake up other Canadians to this completely-preventable deadly problem: “...now I have a new mission: To end the silence on the silent killer—carbon monoxide...To honour their memory, our charitable foundation will promote CO education and raise funds to purchase CO alarms to be given out by fire departments to needy families.”
    1. Each year, CO reportedly kills hundreds of Canadians, and, makes more than one thousand ill with flu-like symptoms.
    2. CO is a combustion by-product of appliances that burn gas, oil, wood, coal or other fossil fuels. Danger can arise from furnaces, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, faulty outside vents, water heaters and car exhaust from attached garages.
    3. CO alarms are simple, relatively-inexpensive decisions for safety, but if your detectors are older than five years, Gignac suggests investing in a new alarms. Combined CO and smoke alarms can be practical solutions.

To further complicate safety, sloppy shopping and aggressive bargain hunting can compromise security and leave you vulnerable to danger on many levels.

Doug Geralde, Director of Government Affairs and Regulator Relations for the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) warns that counterfeiting is no longer limited to luxury items: “Now, it’s almost anything,” he stresses. “In the case of certified products, if you are looking at extension cords, [light] fixtures or things to use for building, if it is 'CSA Certififed’ or another certification, it should be on the product and on the package.”

CSA Group (www.csagroup.org) is an independent, not-for-profit membership association serving business, industry, government and consumers. It’s purpose is to “make standards work for business and people” through its three divisions:

  • CSA Standards (www.csa.ca)—for standards development, information products and training
  • CSA International (www.csa-international.org)—for product testing and certification services for electrical, mechanical, plumbing, gas and a variety of other products, and
  • OnSpeX (www.onspex.com)—for consumer product evaluation for retailers and manufacturers.

Geralde explains that counterfeiters will put “CSA Certified” on faked packaging, but not on counterfeit products because inspectors checking product manufacturing would detect the fraud. Spelling mistakes in manufacturer contact information on products can be warning signs.

If the price is too good to be true, there may be counterfeiting and sub-standard products involved, says Geralde. Products like dry wall board, are not rated, so you must rely on your ability to identify reputable contractors and retailers. These professionals want to avoid counterfeit products, so they carry out due diligence that ensures consumer safety comes before their profit. Become knowledgeable enough to be sure you know what fair market value is for a service or product, so you’ll neither buy inappropriately nor be over charged.

Seek out information in the right context for your decision making. Consumer opinion, online and off, can offer another valuable resource for improving safety at home and in the workplace. Consider the source before acting on advice from friends, provided references or posted comments. When researching products or services with a long shelf-life, the opinion of a recent buyer may not prove as useful as feedback from a consumer who has three or more years of actual usage to discuss.

Have a safe, happy Holiday Season in your safe, happy home.

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