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Think first: Make safety, family priorities this Thanksgiving

HOUGHTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants to remind holiday revelers to ensure their safety, and that of others, according to a release issued earlier this week.

“Take precautions when cooking and heating your home to reduce the risk of a house fire during the holidays,” said Moises Dugan, acting regional administrator, FEMA Region 5. “We also must remember COVID-19 is still a risk and stay vigilant against its spread. Take the time to check the CDC’s website for the latest guidance on safer ways to celebrate this season while protecting the ones you love.”

The release also offers advice on how to protect against home fire risks, as Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.

“Before you celebrate,” the release advises, “take the time to put working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside sleeping areas. Remember to change the batteries in these alarms twice per year or per manufacturer’s guidelines.”

Cooking, says FEMA, is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, so practice safe cooking. For example:

– Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, broiling, or boiling food and turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so they won’t get bumped.

– Clean cooking equipment after each use–crumbs in a toaster or grease on the stove can catch on fire.

– Keep a large pan lid or baking sheet handy in case you need to smother a pan fire.

– Heat your home safely. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from fireplaces, wood stoves, portable heaters and radiators.

– When you leave a room or go to bed, turn heaters off or unplug them. Portable generators should NEVER be used indoors and should only be refueled outdoors and in well ventilated areas.

For more readiness tips, visit www.ready.gov, www.cdc.gov, www.usfa.fema.gov, or download FEMA’s free app, available for your Android, Apple or Blackberry device.

Fires and other precautions are not the only concerns worrying family members across the nation on Thanksgiving.

Serbin Media (serbinmedia.com) also shared concerns over what could go wrong during the holiday in an email.

“There’s nothing quite like everyone coming together for Thanksgiving dinner, that is, until something goes wrong,” states the email. “Maybe it’s old family drama that gets brought up, a difference in political opinions or a guest who drinks more than he should. How can you make sure things go smoothly?”

International Etiquette Expert and author Sharon Schweitzer offers seven tips, as follows:

– Include safety measures in the invitation: As a host, advise your guests about your pandemic safety requirements in advance to avoid awkwardness. How will vaccination status and the wearing of face-coverings, or masks be managed? Will ventilation, an indoor or outdoor area be available? Be prepared by including this with the invitation.

– Preload dinner dialogue: Be informed with relevant conversation topics by beginning your morning reading news that impacts your world or local news. Check 2021’s Nobel Prize winners, and your bookstore’s Top 100 Bestsellers for potential subjects. Have pleasant convo starters for intriguing dinner dialogue and recruit allies to help you keep things on track.

– Seating plan: Organizing the table in advance with name cards puts your guests at ease. This avoids the last-minute dilemma of selecting a seat for a new friend or significant other. Keep conversation interesting by seating extroverts next to introverts. Seat kiddos next to elders. Avoid melodrama by separating sassy cats at the table.

– Host’s toast: Before the meal, raise a toast thanking your guests for accepting your invitation to attend and set boundaries. Consider: “As we express our gratitude for our blessings, let us remember to be civil and kind at our holiday table. We know different generations like or dislike talking about politics so to keep the peace, we appreciate everyone avoiding politics at the table. Instead, let us share their thoughts on upcoming travel, books and pets.” Close with a positive tone and humor.

– Hone your hearing skills: As a host or savvy guest, when controversial topics like politics, vaccines, or prying personal questions arise, graciously segue the dialogue in a different direction. For example, if your Uncle Dave asks your neighbor Bob the pilot their thoughts on federal vaccine mandates, interject with, “Oh Bob, we would love to hear about your Labrador retriever’s obedience training! How did that go?” Raise a new but interesting topic.

– Wine: Either pour wine yourself or designate a co-host to serve wine gracefully and properly. This allows the hosts to monitor wine consumption by keeping the bottle close by and controlling glass refill. If a guest has reached their limit, you can strategize accordingly. After cousin Jamie’s enjoyed three glasses of wine, maybe it is time for coffee or dessert.

– Rascals as guests: Hosts may exhaust their best tactics and yet guests may over consume, overshare, or overdo political rantings. After your best attempts to pour coffee or change the conversation flop, ask the rascal guest to help you in the kitchen so you can speak to them privately. In a quiet area away from other guests, gently advise them this is not the time or place. Avoid embarrassing them in a group setting.

These are indeed very good suggestions to follow. However, all the above-cited advise may not be enough to maintain safety as a priority. There are other safety measures suggested.

Jamie Loftus, in her inverse.com article, titled How Not to Murder Your Family This Thanksgiving: Even if they have it coming, wrote: “This is my personal favorite approach to avoid conflict: Maybe don’t tell your family you’re declining their invitation because of politics, but it’s okay to make plans with people you know you’re not going to want to strangle.”

Politics can be incendiary at a family gathering, as everyone knows. Loftus, however, has offered advise on effectively banning talk of politics at the holiday table.

Following these safety tips should get most people safely through the Thanksgiving holiday.

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