Now that's scary: 6 tips for safely carving pumpkins

Hand injuries ramp up during Halloween. Carving jack o’ lanterns is a fun family tradition, but pumpkin carving accidents can cause serious cuts, puncture wounds, and damage to nerves and tendons.

Prevent a trip to the emergency room by following these tips:

Skip the knife

Kids like to be hands on, so give them a pumpkin to decorate with paint, glitter, or markers, instead of carving.


If you’ve decided your kids are ready to carve, supervise carefully and coach them through the process. Encourage them to work slowly and follow the good carving habits listed below. Even teenagers should have a parent present.

Use the right tools

Research shows that the pumpkin carving tools found in holiday kits cause fewer and less severe injuries than regular kitchen knives. Consumer Reports also gives these kits a thumbs up for effectiveness, without being overly sharp. 

Saw, don’t slice. 

When carving a pumpkin, saw back and forth with gentle force. Applying a lot of force or trying to make big slices increases the chance of injury.

Cut away

Cut away from the hand holding the pumpkin. Otherwise, the knife could hit a soft spot in the pumpkin and continue right into your hand. Ouch!

Dry off

Simply put, pumpkin guts are slimy and slippery. And that leads to accidents. Keep a good supply of towels nearby so you can keep your pumpkin dry and your grip steady.
Once your pumpkin is carved and ready for the window, place battery operated lights or glow sticks inside. These are safer, longer-lasting alternative to candles.

Teen riders: How to be a good passenger

Teen drivers get lots of advice about how to drive safely and avoid distractions. But you probably don’t hear much about how to be a good passenger.

Most states have restrictions on the number of passengers new teen drivers can have with them in the car. Why? Because passengers can be a serious distraction.

Help keep yourself and the driver safe by being an engaged passenger: 
  • Hang up. Other people’s phone conversations are distracting. If you’re on the phone, the driver can’t plug her ears or walk away. Be considerate and keep your phone calls short and quiet.
  • Be the button pusher. Be the designated person in charge of the phone or navigation system. Help the driver fight distraction by answering their phone for them (if they insist) or managing the playlist.
  • Chillax. Sometimes traffic gets dicey. Keep the screams, the gasps, and the “OMGs!” to yourself. Yelling will not help the driver get through an emergency situation. 
  • Buckle up. In most states, seat belts are required by law. Don’t be the reason your friend gets pulled over by the police. Wear your seat belt every time. Better yet, be the positive peer pressure that makes everyone else (including the driver) wear theirs too.
  • Wait for the right time. Save the tough conversations and potential arguments until you’ve reached your destination.
  • Be aware. There’s a big difference between backseat driving (being critical) and keeping a second set of eyes on the road. Be a good co-pilot by staying aware of what’s going on outside the vehicle.
Truth is, your behavior is just as important as the driver’s behavior when you’re on the road. It’s your job to help them focus.

Before you turn up the heat

A properly maintained furnace not only runs better, it’s safer.

Make annual furnace maintenance part of your regular routine. Maintenance improves your furnace performance and your comfort, and it’s important for your well-being too.

A professional furnace tune-up should include the following:
  • Check the system cycle to make sure it starts, operates, and shuts down properly
  • Check gas connections and gas pressure
  • Check vent system for blocks, leaks, or damage
  • Check air gills and louvers for blockage
  • Check burners for proper ignition and flame; clean if necessary
  • Check drain system for blocks or leaks
  • Check blower wheel and clean if necessary
  • Test voltage and current on the motor
  • Check wiring for damage
  • Check and replace filters (see do-it-yourself below)
Monitor carbon dioxide
A proper furnace inspection should include a carbon monoxide leak test. This odorless, colorless gas can cause serious injury or death. You also should install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home for constant monitoring.

Shut it down
If your furnace starts making new, unfamiliar sounds or emits an unusual odor, shut it down and call for an inspection. Keep an eye out for visible signs of malfunction, such as burns or rust. Unusual amounts of moisture on the insides of your windows also may indicate your furnace isn’t working.

Clean or change the air filters in your furnace or central air conditioner once a month. A dirty filter increases energy costs and can lead to equipment malfunction.

4 steps to prevent garage fires

Garage fires spread farther and cause more injuries than fires that start anywhere else in the home, according to FEMA. 

Garages often are full of paints, solvents, and other chemicals that will fuel a flame. Plus, they are generally home to tools and large appliances that can generate heat and ignite a fire.

Help prevent fires (and slow the spread if one occurs) by making safe choices:

Step one: Charge safely 
Garage fires are most often caused by electrical malfunctions, typically due to damaged wires, shorts, and overloaded circuits. When charging tools, only plug one tool into an outlet at a time. Check your extension cords for damage before use, and never use an extension cord as a long-term power source.

Step two: Store safely 
If you can, store oils, gasoline, and varnishes in a backyard shed, away from your home. If not, be sure these items are stored well away from appliances and tool chargers. Don’t leave oily rags lying around either. Store them in a well-covered metal can or hang them outside to dry before disposal.

Step three: Install a heat detector 
Smoke alarms are not designed for use in garages. Instead, install a heat detector that will alert you when ambient temperatures reach a certain point, indicating a fire.

Step four: Upgrade construction 
For attached garages, install a 20-minute fire-rated door between the garage and the house. Cover the wall that attaches to your home with ½-inch gypsum board. Do the same to the ceiling if you have living space above the garage.

And as always, it’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in your garage, preferably close to an exit door.