How to help ensure a safe holiday season this year

Ansbach Weinachtsmarkt


From the USAG Ansbach Safety Office

ANSBACH, Germany (Dec. 23, 2015) — The time around Christmas and New Year’s is a time of social activities and celebrations with Family and friends, but there is also an increased risk of accidents and injuries. Below is an easy-to-follow holiday safety guide, divided by subject and with links to more comprehensive sources.


If your plans involve driving, make sure your vehicle is prepared for the trip and you are rested and ready for the drive itself. Plan your drive and leave yourself plenty of time to reach your destination and return home safely. Consider using public transportation. If traveling in your own vehicle, plan the ride by using the Travel Risk Planning System (TRiPS) available at

If you plan on being outside for an extended time, check the weather forecast – carry cold-weather and rain gear or dress in layers for low temperatures. Don’t leave home without your vehicle “winter survival kit” tucked safely away in your car. In the event of an accident, breakdown or prolonged vehicle stall (especially in the cold and often freezing temperatures) it may come in handy. Indeed, you may depend on it. Remember, inclement weather can change traffic and road conditions in seconds — stay vigilant.

There is no excuse for driving while intoxicated. For more about drinking responsibly, see the corresponding section below.

Fire safety

For a more comprehensive list of tips that cover fire safety in regard to holiday decorating, entertaining, see our pieces about Christmas tree safety and candle safety. Here are some basics:

  • If you’re staying home and inviting guests, don’t place candles where they may be accidentally knocked over.
  • If you have a Christmas tree set up this season, ensure it is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. Also, make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant.
  • Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.
  • If you’re looking for fireworks, visit a city’s New Year’s event where professionals handle the risk. Be careful of irresponsible behavior and stray fireworks. Remember, fireworks on-post are prohibited!

Responsible drinking

Social events should be about the company you share, not the liquid you drink. If you drink alcohol, drink responsibly. If hosting a holiday party, set the example by acting responsibly and ensure everyone gets home safely. Have the number of a taxi on hand for guests. Remember that no one who has been drinking should get behind the wheel!

  • Do not actively encourage your guests to drink alcoholic beverages. Be a good host or hostess by offering nonalcoholic beverages and set the example by drinking responsibly.
  • Don’t hesitate to take the keys from a guest who has had one too many alcoholic drinks. Again, have the phone number of the local taxi company available for guests you believe should not be driving.

Personal safety: slips, trips and falls

Winter is the prime time for slips, trips and falls, which is a leading cause of accidental injuries. These types of injuries can be particularly painful and long-lasting — but also avoidable. Here are some tips for both inside and outside the home:

  • In the home, proper footwear, appropriate pace of walking and the quality of walking surfaces are all viable factors; however, good housekeeping — such as cleaning up spills immediately and removing obstacles from walkways — is the top prevention tactic in avoiding slips and trips.
  • Outside the home, taking your time and avoiding slippery hazards such as wet leaves, icy areas and snow banks will help prevent slips and trips during the winter.
  • Wear appropriate footwear at all times. The inconvenience of changing footwear as needed is insignificant compared to the inconvenience due to a serious fall-related injury. Use handrails wherever they are provided — a secure handhold can prevent a fall if you should slip.


  • During the holiday season (or any other season), there are actions everyone can take to limit their potential for being targeted by adversaries. Here are several:
  • Remove license plate holders, stickers and other visual items on your vehicle that may affiliate you or family members with the military, government or law enforcement.
  • Avoid large gatherings or demonstrations. If you come upon a demonstration, remain calm and disengage from the situation. Avoid speaking loudly.
  • Travel in small groups (never alone) and vary movements.
  • If there is an incident at your destination or any location on your itinerary, inform your unit of your status as soon as possible.
  • Carry a mobile phone if possible and have emergency numbers handy (pre-programmed in phone): The emergency number for German Police is 112.

For more on security, see our piece about Holiday Season Security Awareness.


Leaders and supervisors should ensure every Soldier receives a safety briefing before they depart for the holiday. Because no one is immune from being involved in an accident, it’s encouraged that you ensure your civilians also receive a safety briefing before they depart. Address the risks associated with their planned activities and ensure they have a plan to mitigate the risks and return safely.

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