Local Red Cross chapter offers tips for safe holiday cooking, traveling

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For many of us, Thanksgiving means time with the family, big meals and, in many cases, travel.

The American Red Cross -- which knows about dealing with emergencies -- has some tips for a safe, healthy holiday.

Fixing the feast

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, according to Patricia Waldinger, CEO of American Red Cross Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Holiday chefs should practice safety by following these recommendations:

• Do not wear loose clothing.

• Do not leave the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling. If you must leave, turn off the stove.

• Check food regularly; use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.

• Enforce a "kid-free zone" -- keep young children at least 3 feet from the stove.

• Keep potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper and plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains away from appliances that generate heat.

• Install a smoke alarm near the kitchen and on each level of the home. Use the test button to check it each month, and replace batteries at least once a year.

En route to Grandma's

Thanksgiving is one of the heaviest travel times of the year. For safe car travel:

• Make sure the vehicle is in good working order.

• Start the trip with a full tank of gas, check the tire air pressure and make sure the windshield washer fluid is full.

• Buckle up, slow down, don't drive impaired and have a designated driver.

• Avoid distractions such as cell phones.

• Make frequent stops; during long trips, rotate drivers.

• Turn on the headlights as dusk approaches or if using windshield wipers due to inclement weather.

• Keep an emergency preparedness kit in the vehicle that contains water, snacks, a flashlight, first-aid kit, extra cash and blankets.

For healthy trips by air, bus or train during the holiday season, which also is flu season:

• Handle your own belongings as much as possible.

• Bring your own pillow and blankets -- they can serve as a shield against the seat itself.

• Wash hands often with soap and water and carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes -- and use them to wipe surfaces, such as armrests.

• If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or sleeve.

• Avoid touching your face or eyes.

For more safety suggestions, visit RedCross.org.

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