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While families around the Historic Triangle are preparing for parties, gatherings and other holiday festivities for Thanksgiving, local police and fire departments are preparing for a day often fraught with dangers.
As a holiday largely based around cooking, eating and drinking, Thanksgiving presents a set of safety concerns both in the home and out on the roads.
Eric Stone, technical assistant to the fire chief for the Williamsburg Fire Department, cautions that one of the keys to a safe Thanksgiving is making sure food is never left unattended while it is being cooked.
He advised family chefs stay in the kitchen, if possible. Should the need to briefly leave the food arise ,the cook should carry an object, such as a spoon or potholder, from the room as a physical reminder to return quickly and not lose track of time while away from the kitchen.
Stone also addressed safety concerns surrounding turkey fryers, which are known for being the source of oil fires.
“[Turkeys cooked in a fryer] taste extremely good, but you’ve got to be safe,” Stone said.
Tips for safely using a turkey fryer include making sure it is used outdoors, far away from the house or any structure and on a level surface, he said. Users must also ensure they do not overfill the fryer with oil and they put the turkey in slowly to prevent splash and spillage.
James City County’s official Facebook page recently echoed this sentiment by sharing a YouTube video from Underwriters Laboratories, a global independent consumer goods safety testing facility, discouraging people from using turkey fryers.
Underwriters Laboratories does not certify any fryer currently on the market due to concerns that this manner of cooking can be “very hazardous,” according to the video.
Finally, Stone said it is important to clean up oven spills as they arise and always have appropriate fire safety equipment such as fire alarms and extinguishers on hand.
Though cooking fires are the main in-home safety hazard on Thanksgiving, Virginia State Police are equally concerned about the dangers that may arise when people get behind the wheel of a car after partaking of too many holiday cocktails.
Officers throughout the commonwealth will be out on the roads participating in the annual “Click It or Ticket” program, which enforces seat belt use for drivers and passengers in cars.
“The best defense against impaired, aggressive and distracted drivers is wearing a seat belt,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent. “More than 250 lives have already been lost on Virginia’s highways this year in traffic crashes involving people who couldn’t take two minutes out of their busy day to simply buckle up or buckle up a child.”
“Click It or Ticket” is just one initiative meant to combat a statewide increase in traffic fatalities over this time last year. State police will also be participating in Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.), which will see significantly increased numbers of officers out on the highways throughout the holiday weekend.
“Our goal is not to see how many summonses can be issued and traffic violators arrested over the holiday,” Flaherty said. “The purpose of having our troopers out there on Virginia’s highways is to remind the motoring public of the importance of traffic safety, and to deter aggressive, dangerous, reckless, and impaired driving.”