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Keeping your kids safe this Halloween while providing a sense of normalcy after Hurricane Ian

From Julie Noble, the Safe Kids SWFL Coordinator at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida

We may not have crisp fall air, apple orchards and crunchy orange and yellow leaves, but we still have Halloween to help us get into the fall spirit.

Due to Hurricane Ian, the holiday may look a little different this year, as Southwest Floridians work to rebuild their lives and recover from the aftermath and effects of the major storm.

Our community is resilient and we’ll make sure our children don’t miss out on this year’s trick-or-treating festivities. However, we still need to be mindful of yard debris, standing water and other hazards that come after a hurricane.

Halloween After a Hurricane

Yard debris

Be mindful that some homes are still gathering storm debris or waiting for it to be collected. Avoid any felled trees or limbs, shrubs, fencing, construction material, furniture, etc. Items that had to be removed from a home because of flood or structural damage will be picked up by designated collection units.

Storm debris should be avoided; it could be hazardous. While a lot of the standing water has receded, the same bacteria that was in standing water could also be on the debris. If you’re still removing debris, wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves. Due to Ian’s unprecedented devastation, many homes may also have a large amount of yard debris waiting to be collected. Make sure trick-or-treaters approach the home with caution.

If a puncture is sustained, wash the area immediately with soap and clean water. If you’re not up-to-date with your tetanus immunization, now is a good time to make an appointment.

Standing water

Even though it’s been almost a month since Ian impacted our region, some areas may still have standing water, which should always be avoided. It could be harmful because we don’t know what’s in standing water at any given time. Flood water could contain household waste, medical waste or hazardous waste, downed power lines, construction debris and animals such as rodents or snakes. Never wade in flood waters. Exposure to hazardous standing water could lead to rashes, wound infections, tetanus or gastrointestinal illness. The best way to avoid these is to stay away from standing water.

Due to the amount of standing water in the area, there may also be an increased amount of mosquitoes.

Downed power lines

Since many neighborhoods are still working to get back to normal, you and your child may notice downed power lines and other utility infrastructure. Even if they’re not humming or sparkling, fallen power lines could still electrocute someone if they touch them or even the ground nearby. These should always be avoided, even if they’re wet. Downed power lines can electrically charge the water.

More Safety Tips to Keep in Mind

In addition to keeping you and your child safe from debris and other hurricane damage, here are some more traditional safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Test makeup on a small area first and remove it before bed to prevent skin or eye irritation
  • Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses
  • Wear well-fitting masks, costumes and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips and falls
  • Wear flame-resistant costumes and don’t walk near lit candles or luminaries
  • Plan the route you’ll trick-or-treat in advance. If you use the same route each year, make sure you scope it out first and ensure that the area wasn’t impacted with debris or floodwater from Hurricane Ian. If the route isn’t usable, you may have to find another one.
  • Make sure at least one adult is accompanying kids at all times
  • Make sure the kids can be seen. Give them a flashlight to hold and make sure they know how to use it.
  • Hold the flashlight so you can see and others can see you
  • Walk, don’t run
  • Only walk on sidewalks and if that’s not possible, walk along the far edge of the road facing traffic
  • Look both ways before crossing the street and use established crosswalks
  • If you’re passing out candy, make sure your home area is well lit
  • Don’t visit dark homes
  • Only visit well-lit homes with a trusted adult
  • Never accept rides from strangers
  • If you’re a homeowner, be sure to remove any yard debris on the path to your door that kids and their parents can trip over. This is especially important after a major storm.
  • Never let children go inside homes. And only visit those that have a porch light on.
  • Check your child’s candy before letting them indulge. Take out any choking hazards, loose candy and brand names you don’t recognize.
  • Only let your kids eat factory-wrapped treats and avoid homemade candy

Now, more than ever, it’s important for the community to embrace each other and help our little ones feel a sense of normalcy and enjoy the Halloween holiday. Stay safe by using these tips and enjoy creating memories you’ll cherish for years to come.