Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Don’t Leave the Turkey Waiting [Thanksgiving Safety Tips]

The anticipation is building. The kickoff to the holiday season is almost here and you have big plans. Your whole family is gathering at your childhood home, and the delicious menu is in order. Suitcases are packed, and there is only one thing standing between you and that turkey – the drive.

The National Safety Council estimates 433 people will be killed, and an additional 52,300 will be seriously injured in crashes this holiday weekend. It’s already been a deadly year on North Dakota’s roads – don’t let the rush of a holiday weekend rush you on the roads. With the extra traffic, it is even more important to be alert and drive defensively so you can celebrate with your family, not in the emergency room.

To ensure you don’t leave the turkey and your loved ones waiting this weekend, just follow these simple Thanksgiving travel safety tips:

  1. BUCKLE UP! And make sure every passenger buckles, too.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. Designate an alcohol and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation.
  3. Avoid fatigued driving. Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue.
  4. Stay focused. Never text or talk on the phone while driving, even if it’s hands-free.
  5. Stay informed. Check the forecast and road report before you travel. Stay off the roads if adverse weather arises.

For more information on becoming a defensive driver, go to to learn about the NDSC’s lineup of traffic safety courses for adults and new drivers.

Furnace Inspection Checklist

Furnace Inspection Checklist to Help Combat Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Being married to an HVAC technician definitely has its perks, especially in the fall when the temperature starts to drop and it’s time to do the annual furnace inspection checklist before winter officially hits. Since our house was built just this past year, I had asked my husband if it is necessary to conduct a yearly maintenance check. He recommended that we should check our furnace this year and every other year, at the very least, just as a preventative measure. Why, you ask? Because not only can an oil or gas-based furnace become a potential health hazard if it reveals any carbon monoxide leaks, but it could also quit in the night in the middle of winter leaving your family in the cold. And if you live in North Dakota, or the upper Midwest, you know just how cold the winters can be!

Carbon monoxide, CO, is an invisible threat that kills hundreds of people every year and leaves even more people sick. Approximately 500 people die each year and over 15,000 people are taking to a hospital because of CO exposure. It cannot be seen. It cannot be heard. It cannot be smelled. But it can be prevented. There are some simple steps you can take to make sure you and your family remain safe this autumn and winter.

  • Have your furnace inspected every year, or every other year. If you have a furnace over eight years old, my husband recommends making sure it is inspected annually.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors. The best location for these are in hallways near bedrooms and near your furnace.
  • Check your carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Make sure to check batteries monthly and replace them annually.

If you are like me, before I had met my husband, I had heard all about carbon monoxide poisoning but I wasn’t sure what to look for. Symptoms are actually very similar to the common flu. They include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and even confusion. And if exposed to high levels of CO, it can even cause death. If ever you think you might be exposed there are some clear steps to take:

  • Clear out of the area and get fresh air immediately.
  • Open all doors and windows for ventilation.
  • If you are showing any of the symptoms listed above, take an additional step by going to an emergency room or clinic and tell the physician that you suspect CO poisoning.

The cold weather can act as a reminder that it is time to check your furnace.  Whether you happened to be married to an HVAC tech, like me, or if you need to call in a local technician, you should get your furnace inspected on a regular basis to help prevent any unnecessary carbon monoxide exposure. HVAC technicians will conduct a furnace inspection checklist to make sure no chimneys, vents, intake grills, louvers, or connections are blocked, leaking, loose, or disconnected from the furnace. They will check for correct gas pressure and operating temperature. They will also check the heat exchanger, all wiring, burners, and filters in your furnace – making sure all are operating at the highest level.

To me, carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t worth the risk. Be proactive. A simple yearly check can help you and your family sleep soundly at night. One call to an HVAC service can make sure you stay warm on those cold winter nights AND it can make sure you do not have to worry about a colorless, odorless gas harming you and your family. Doesn’t that sound like a load off your mind? I would say that small, once-a-year bill is nothing compared to the safety of my family!

Please go to the National Safety Council’s website for additional information on carbon monoxide, or visit to find additional resources.

Teen Driver Safety Week

Young Adult and Teen Driver Safety – Don’t Be a Statistic

This week, the week of October 19th through October 25, 2016, is National Teen Driver Safety Week. A week that I wish I would have paid more attention to when I was younger. A week that could have potentially saved my friend’s life.

I am not writing this post to fill your mind and your head with statistics. While some of those statistics are shuddersome, I am writing this post on a very personal level. With a very heavy heart, I am instead going to tell about ONE statistic – my friend. This is a personal story of mine that will hopefully help make your decision to drink and drive a bit easier… that it won’t even be a “decision” when it comes time to choose… that you won’t second guess your choice to give up your keys.

It was October 30, 2009. It was a Friday. It also happened to be my best friend, and roommate’s birthday. We planned to go out that night with friends for a birthday supper followed by a few drinks. We did. We then planned to go out dancing at one of the bars in town. We did. What I did not plan for… was one of my good friends not living to see the break of dawn on October 31, 2009.

A little before bar close, my roommates and I got a taxi, and we went home. All three of us made it home safely. All three of us crawled into bed to see another day.

My other friend stayed behind. The last time I saw him we were out on the dance floor, around midnight, at a bar in Mandan. I had told him that if he got too drunk to drive that he could stay with me. To just give me a call. At a little after 1 in the morning, as I was falling asleep in bed, I missed his phone call. The phone call that could have saved his life. A phone call that would have had him sleeping on my couch, on my floor, in my home, with me, instead of driving home to his house, 30 miles away.

He never made it home. I missed his phone call… and he never made it home.

I will never forget finding out the morning of October 31st. I think about him every week, every month, every year – especially around Halloween when I think of all my friends going to Halloween parties. I tell them to be safe. I tell them not to drive drunk. Not to drive if they’ve had a drink at all. To call me no matter what time of the night. That I will keep my phone on ring and not on vibrate and that I will come pick them up and take them home safely. That I will pay them back the cost of a taxi ride… because that cost of a safe ride is a lot less than the cost of a life.

I learned the hard way. I had to learn by going to a funeral… the hardest funeral I have ever been to… in early November… for my friend who had just turned 21. He never made it to 22… 23… 24… or 25. But you can.

That is why I encourage all young adults to be careful. Not just during National Teen Driver Safety Week, but always. I encourage all young adults ages 14 to 24 to take the NDSC’s Alive at 25 defensive driving course… in hopes that they will make it to the age of 25 safely. That they will know all the risks of being a young driver, not just with alcohol, but with weather, drugs, speeding, texting, and peer pressure. I encourage all young drivers to learn control, to be in control, and to take control when behind the wheel.

Don’t be a statistic. Don’t learn the hard way. Don’t take a chance. Just ask me. Because you can’t ask him.

For more information on Alive at 25, a young adult and high school driver education course, please go to the North Dakota Safety Council’s Traffic Safety webpage. There is a schedule listed with information on registering for a driver’s education course program near you. If you have additional questions call the NDSC at 701-223-6372.­­­

Halloween Safety Tips, Tricks, and Treats

Halloween Safety Tips for Parents and Kids

The trees have started to change colors. The leaves are beginning to fall. There is a brisk chill in the air. All these things can only mean one thing – fall is officially here and Halloween is right around the corner!

Halloween is one of my favorite times of year because it brings back so many nostalgic memories. My favorite part of Halloween was always coming home with my brother after we had gone trick-or-treating. We would stay up, under mom’s watchful eye, going through all of our candy and treats. Mom made sure we carefully inspected each piece to make sure they had not been tampered with in any way. Then, my brother and I would trade! Yes, we would trade. We’d spend hours haggling our not-so-favorites for those other pieces that we really really wanted.

Halloween is an exciting time of year for many children, like it was for myself. I mean, who doesn’t want to dress up for a night as their favorite princess or super hero?! AND get candy too?! With all the excitement in the air, we must not forget to be safe as we venture out to Halloween parties or to go trick-or-treating.

As adults, if we are on the road, we must watch out for children. Be sure to slow down. Children may be dressed up in dark colored clothing and may excitedly dart across a road at any time to get to that next house door for candy. Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., so be especially alert for kids during those hours. As a parent there are a few Halloween tips and tricks you can do to help keep your child safe:

  • Instruct your children to travel only in familiar areas along an established route, using sidewalks when able.
  • Make sure your children walk, not run, from house to house.
  • Do not cross yards and lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can present tripping hazards.
  • If children are allowed out after dark, outfits should be made with light colored materials. Strips of retroreflective tape should be used to make children visible.
  • Bags or sacks carried by youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape if children are allowed out after dark.
  • Carrying flashlights will help children see better and be seen more clearly.
  • If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes. This will ensure your child’s vision is not obstructed.
  • Review all appropriate trick-or-treat safety precautions, including pedestrian/traffic safety rules.

And of course, be sure to tell your children not to eat any treats until they return home. This will not only help keep them safe, but maybe, just maybe then they will also make fond memories like I did of coming home safely after trick-or-treating to stay up late with my older brother — as that was the real “treat” after all.

For more information on how to keep yourself and your children safe this Halloween, please view our Halloween Safety Tip Sheet from the North Dakota Safety Council.

How prepared are you to save your child’s life?

Infant CPR and First Aid – Are You Prepared?

There are multiple ways we prepare for parenthood. We buy tiny clothes and fold them to fit perfectly in the drawers. We stockpile diapers and wipes. We research car seats and proper installation techniques. We’re prepared…right? What most of us forget to prepare for is the unthinkable. That one day you turn around to see your child in their highchair choking and starting to turn blue; or maybe you’re at a neighbor’s pool and your child is pulled from the water, limp and not breathing.

None of the things we are told to prepare for as parents can prepare us for that life-altering moment. Some of us may even avoid preparing because we don’t want to believe it could happen to us. But it can happen, and it’s our responsibility to be prepared and equipped.

CPR is a life-saving skill every parent, grandparent and care giver should know. As bystanders, we are able to respond within the first life-saving minutes and can CHANGE the outcome of the emergency. When bystander CPR is administered correctly within the first 3 to 4 minutes, it can double or triple survival rates. And if CPR is used along with an AED (automated external defibrillator) survival rates can jump up to nearly 60%.


With toddlers and infants, CPR might be necessary after a variety of emergencies including car accidents, near-drownings, choking, suffocation, poisoning, smoke inhalation, electrocution injuries, and suspected sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

It is crucial for us to learn this life-saving skill and take a refresher course every two years so we can be prepared and confident to perform CPR correctly. Empower yourself, your family, friends, and your community by completing a CPR and AED course. We can work together as parents to increase CPR skills and prevent the tragic and unnecessary death of a child.

There are several CPR/AED/First Aid training providers across the state. A simple Google search will give you multiple results. The NDSC is one provider of infant CPR and first aid. To find a course in your area, go to or call our First Aid Coordinator at (800) 932-8890.

I’m a good mom and I could have killed my son this morning.

“Mom, where are we going?” Those are the five words my son said to me this morning as I drove past our turn to daycare and continued to drive to work.

I’d like to think I’m “supermom”. I feed our son his fruits and vegetables and put sunscreen on him when we play outside. I attend car seat checkups and take him to swimming lessons.

But let’s face it – some mornings I can’t even put on a matching pair of shoes.
And today, I very easily could have forgot to drop my son off at daycare and left him in my car while I went to work. A day when temperatures are supposed to surpass 90 degrees. I could have killed my son this morning.

But, thank goodness he is so excited to go to daycare each day and is a creature of habit who doesn’t like Mom to take a different route.

Luckily he spoke up. Not all parents are this lucky though. On average, a child dies every 8 days from heatstroke in a vehicle. The reasons for forgetting their children in the vehicle vary. But those reasons don’t matter. What I hope every parent and caregiver realizes is, it COULD happen to YOU.  Because none of us are immune to mistakes. Not even me – the Mom who “preaches” safety for a living. The mom who mindlessly drove passed her turn to daycare this morning. The mom whose SON had to remind her to turn around and take him to daycare.

Since I’m apparently prone to forgetting things (even my son – GASP!) I’ve taken a few precautions to protect my son and our family:

  1. I talked to my daycare provider and we have a plan in place for her to call me if I don’t arrive within my usual timeframe – summer OR winter.
  2. I call my husband every day when I get to work. He ALWAYS asks me how our son was that morning: Temper tantrums? How early did he get up? What toy did he ask to bring to daycare? All things that could act as reminders in case I did the unthinkable.
  3. I put my dog in the backseat. I mean, I’d forget my child, but never my DOG, right? None-the-less, it’s one more reason for me to reach into the backseat before I get out of my car and go in to my office. (Side note: my dog keeps me company at work every day.)

I can’t imagine EVER forgetting my son in the car. It seems impossible. But, I know I’m not perfect and that you can never be too careful. So I encourage you to start taking steps today to protect your family from a tragedy.

Find more tips on preventing vehicular heatstroke here, or call (800) 932-8890.

Who will you leave behind? (The Risk of Unsafe Decisions)

At the NDSC, we’ve been celebrating National Safety Month and this year’s theme is, “What I Live For.” We asked everyone in our office to display what they live for on one sheet of paper. This got me thinking: What is it that I’m living for? Why do I choose to make safe decisions?

During that moment of reflection I realized something – to me – my safety has nothing to do with my dreams or aspirations. When I became a wife and a mom there was a shift in my world. For me, my safe decisions are not about whether or not I get to see my son graduate from high school – it’s about HIM not having to grow up without a mother. It’s not about the fact that I want to grow old with my husband, it’s about him not having to raise our child alone. These are the things that motivate me to make safe decisions each and every day.

If you have trouble justifying making safe decisions in your life, take a step back and think. Just for one moment think about the number of people your unsafe decision could affect. Parents, cousins, friends, classmates, coworkers, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, in-laws – the list is endless.

So put down your phone and put both hands on the wheel.
Secure your safety harness.
Make a plan for emergencies.
Read the safety warnings and heed their advice.

If you feel inclined, download the free safety resources available during National Safety Month. By utilizing the checklists and following the safety tips, you can help make this world a safer place. Because, in the end, safety isn’t just about you. It’s about those you’d leave behind.

Don’t be Helpless. Be the Help. [Reflections after my dad’s heart attack}

I’ll never forget the phone call. Within just two hours of my dad leaving my house, my mom called to let me know he had a heart attack. Multiple heart attacks actually. He started having chest pains on his way home from my house and drove himself to the hospital in Minot. That was a phone call I never expected to get, especially with my dad only in his early 50’s. But what scared me even more, was I wouldn’t have known what to do if he had the heart attack at my house.

Man Having Heart AttackThey say 75% of cardiac arrests occur at home, but 70% of Americans feel helpless to act because they don’t know how to administer CPR or they’re afraid of hurting the victim.
Would you know what to do?

June 1-7 is CPR/AED Awareness Week and the NDSC is on a mission to empower North Dakota citizens to act in a cardiac emergency. Our goal is to educate citizens about the importance of getting trained in performing CPR and using an AED so we can increase survivability rates in North Dakota.

Don’t be helpless during a cardiac emergency. Be the help that could save someone’s life. This June, we challenge you to make a commitment to prepare your family and business for a cardiac emergency.

Step 1: Know the facts.

  • The difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest:
    • A heart attack occurs when part of the heart’s blood supply is reduced or blocked, causing the heart muscle to become injured or die. The heart attack victim is awake and may complain about one or more symptoms.
      A heart attack can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
    • When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain, the heart and the rest of the body, and the person collapses. In fact, the victim is clinically dead and will remain so unless someone helps immediately. For the best chance of survival, CPR should be started and an AED used within 3-4 minutes after the person collapses.

Step 2: Know the symptoms and how to react.

  • Signs and symptoms of a heart attack:
    • Persistent pain, pressure or discomfort in chest
    • Pain that may spread to neck, jaw, shoulder or arm
    • Shortness of breath
    • Dizziness, pale skin, sweating
    • Women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, indigestion, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
  • If you see someone experiencing these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.
    • Have the victim rest in a comfortable position.
    • Remain with the victim and monitor them until help arrives.
  • If they become unconscious and stop breathing, start CPR immediately. Push hard, about two inches, and fast on the middle of the victim’s chest until an AED becomes available or help arrives.

Step 3: Get certified.

  • Empower yourself by completing a CPR/AED course that will teach you further techniques and procedures. You can find certification courses across the state. To learn more about NDSC courses, call Rachael at (800) 932-8890 or visit

Drivin’ in “the zone” – The dangers of complacency behind the wheel.

Peter Pomonis, North Dakota Operation Lifesaver State Coordinator

Do you ever park your car at your destination, only to realize you don’t remember the majority of your drive? I can’t be the only one this has happened to! Unfortunately, this complacency behind the wheel could land you in a world of hurt. In the past 5 years, there have been 123 collisions between vehicles and trains in North Dakota. Of our nearly 3,500 public railroad crossings, only 604 have active warning devices (gates and/or lights). This means it is extremely important for drivers to be alert, recognize the signs and signals leading up to a crossing and to always assume there is a train approaching.

Whether you are driving to and from work, or just daydreaming on your way to the grocery store, ND Operation Lifesaver reminds all drivers to pay attention to your surroundings, EVERY time you are behind the wheel. I promise, you do not want your 2 ½ ton car having an unexpected meeting with a 6,000 ton freight train constructed of solid built American steel.

Here are some tips and facts to help you cross the tracks safely, every time:

advanced warning signBe on the look out for the yellow Advanced Warning Sign, which alerts you of railroad tracks ahead.

If you see a train coming – WAIT! Don’t be tempted to try to beat a train. An approaching train may be closer and traveling faster than it appears.

crossbuckEvery public railroad crossing is required to have a crossbuck. This sign tells drivers to yield to trains, as trains always have the right-of-way.

Don’t get stuck on the tracks. Before you cross, be sure there is room on the other side to clear the tracks by at least 15 feet.

ensReport any problem you see at a crossing. Call the emergency notification number posted on or near the crossing, or notify local law enforcement.

Eliminate distractions inside your vehicle, such as your looking at your cell phone, playing loud music, or eating.

For more safety tips and rail-safety resources please visit or Or, invite an Operation Lifesaver volunteer to speak to your organization or business! Click here to request a free presentation.

A Farm Girl, a Tornado and a Pickup Truck. [A Severe Weather Preparedness Testimony]

Rewind about 15 years….It was summertime and I was home alone on the farm. I’m not sure where the rest of my family was, but I was busy doing my chores: mowing the lawn, weed whacking, killing snakes… you know, the usual chores for a farm girl. I noticed the sky getting very dark so I went inside to check the Weather Channel (which didn’t show rain within 50 miles of the farm!).

As I was heading back outside, our phone rang. A family friend was calling to see if I was home alone. I told her yes, and she proceeded to tell me a tornado was reported 6 ½ miles west of town (our farm is 7 ½ miles west of town).

She said, “I don’t want you home alone. Get in the pickup and drive to your neighbor’s house.”

I asked, “Since the tornado is so close, shouldn’t I just stay home and go to the basement?”

She was adamant I go to the neighbor’s house so I was safe.


Well – she was the adult and I was the kid – so I listened to her and proceeded to drive a half mile TOWARD the tornado to get to my neighbor’s house. I won’t go through the hilarious details of a nervous teenage girl trying to drive a stick shift while in a panic. Let’s just say I narrowly avoided putting some new dents in my dad’s shop. We’ll leave it at that.

In the end, I arrived safely at our neighbor’s house. I don’t remember if the tornado caused any damage, but I do remember how scared I was and being very uneasy about driving during the storm. The typical protocol for our family was to go to the basement during storms. But I had never been home alone during a storm, so I wasn’t 100% confident I should ignore the advice from the adult on the other end of the phone.

Life Lesson: Create a plan for severe weather and make sure the whole family understands what to do.

It might seem like a no-brainer, but so many of us just don’t take the time. As severe weather season quickly approaches, now is a good time to make a plan and get prepared.

Here’s some suggestions and resources to help you get started:

  • Create a family emergency plan.
  • Be prepared for a tornado and have a shelter plan.
  • Communicate with your neighbors and other family members about your emergency plan and share your resources. Hiring a babysitter? Make sure they are aware of your emergency plan as well.
  • Keep fully stocked first aid kits in your home and vehicles, as well as a portable weather radio from the National Weather Service.
  • Register for alerts and warnings so you are aware of changing weather conditions.

For more safety tips and emergency preparedness resources, I’d recommend checking out, FEMA’s “America’s PrepareAthon!” campaign and the National Safety Council’s Emergency Preparedness page.

Like this post? Go to our Area Voices dashboard to subscribe to our blog!