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Some ways to avoid accidental Halloween scares

This weekend has a number of events leading up to the trick-or-treating to homes and neighborhoods for Halloween, which comes Thursday, Oct. 31.

A few precautions can better ensure a fun and safe outing for those headed out in costume, state fire officials have advised.

Making such choices as flame-resistant costumes, carrying flashlights or glow sticks and using battery-operated candles at home and in jack-o-lanterns can help avoid accidents, they say.

Decorations that include candles account for an average of 800 home fires annually across the country, causing nearly $4 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Additionally, in the U.S., more than 100 people die each year as a result of their clothing becoming ignited.

The state offers these few practical safety tips:

— Plan costumes that are bright, reflective and are labeled flame-resistant or flame-retardant. Avoid costumes with billowing fabric that can catch fire. Keep costumes short to avoid trips and falls.

— Use a nontoxic face paint rather than a mask that can block a child’s peripheral vision.

— Have the kids carry flashlights or glow sticks as part of their costumes.

— Trick-or-treat in groups; adults should go with children younger than 12. Only go to houses that have the lights on and are welcoming; stay outside of houses when trick-or-treating.

— Remind the kids to cross only at crosswalks or corners and not dart between vehicles.

— Teach the kids how to “stop, drop and roll” in case their costume was to catch fire, to smother the flames. Have the kids practice stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with their hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.

— Don’t let children eat their candy until they get home and an adult can inspect it for any tampering. If in doubt, throw it out.

At home:

— Avoid using highly flammable decorations — such as dried flowers, cornstalks, hay bales and crepe paper — near candles and open flames.

— Keep decorations away from any heat source, such as candles, light bulbs and heaters.

— Use only decorative lights that have been tested and certified for safety. Check lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard damaged sets.

— Don’t overload electrical outlets or extension cords with holiday lighting or special effects.

— Keep exits clear of decorations, ensuring nothing blocks escape routes.

— Have two ways out of the home and practice exit drills should fire break out with your family.

— Have fresh batteries in your smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher in your home.

For more information, go to the Michigan Bureau of Fire Services website at www.michigan.gov/bfs.

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