The weather may still be hot throughout most of the country, but walk into any grocery or home improvement store and you’ll see signs of fall: pumpkins, mums, apple cider, and straw bales. Cooler weather and the holiday season it brings will be here before you know it. Now is the time for emergency management agencies to begin preparing for holiday emergencies. Public outreach can save lives, so consider planning a public education seminar about common holiday emergencies before the temperature begins dropping.

Here are the five most common holiday emergencies—and how you can help prevent them.


Car Accidents

Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes driving each year. Much of that driving begins with Labor Day holidays, extends through Thanksgiving, and culminates in multiple family trips around Christmas. Nearly 40,000 Americans are killed in motor vehicle accidents each year. Almost all of these crashes are preventable with seat belts, proper car seat use, and safe defensive driving.

One study found that 95 percent of parents are making at least one error in the way they use car seats. Consider hosting a car seat installation seminar to reduce injuries to the most vulnerable car passengers.


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Winter fires cause $2 billion in property damage and claim almost 900 lives each year. For most people, the cause of death is asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation, often while sleeping. Three of every five home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke detectors. Hold a smoke detector giveaway and fire prevention class. Some important tips to give your community include:

  • Cooking is the leading source of most home fires, so safe cooking practices, a clean kitchen, and diligent monitoring can save lives.
  • Heating devices should be kept far away from combustibles, such as curtains, and from anything that can fall. Keep cats and other climbing animals out of rooms with space heaters.
  • Holiday decorations present a fire hazard if they overload an electrical circuit or overheat. Follow directions carefully, and use the appropriate outlets. If in doubt, don’t install the decoration.
  • Plug only one heating device into an electrical outlet at a time.



Holiday gifts can be fun, and Halloween candy can be tasty. They can also be deadly. Small parts left on the floor during busy moments can be enticing to babies and small children. Some choking prevention strategies include:

  • Remain mindful throughout the holiday season. Don’t rush through cutting up a child’s food or opening presents. Rushed parents may not notice choking hazards.
  • Inspect children’s candy for potential choking hazards and allergens.
  • Never leave children under 3 unattended to play.


Falls and Other Accidents

Accidental falls and other injuries are a leading cause of death in both elderly populations and children. Consider holding a fall prevention seminar and reminding people to:

  • Secure area rugs so they are not a slipping hazard.
  • Keep the floor clean and clear of slipping hazards.
  • Use assistive devices for mobility impairments.
  • Consult a doctor about medications that affect consciousness.
  • Supervise young children, and never allow them to climb furniture or objects unattended.
  • Secure bookshelves and other cabinets to the walls.


Colds, Flus, and Other Respiratory Illnesses

Cold weather, flu and cold season, and lots of time hugging and kissing relatives conspire to mean one thing: many people get sick around the holidays. For most, a cold or flu is a minor annoyance. For newborns, medically fragile children, and the elderly, the effects of minor infections can be more serious. More than half a million people are hospitalized for flu-related illnesses each year. Factor in infections, such as RSV among newborns, and this time of year quickly becomes hospitals’ busy season.

Prompt treatment can slow the spread of common infections and may even save lives. Consider putting on a flu and cold prevention seminar that features free flu shots. Then urge people to wash their hands, stay home when they’re sick, and see a doctor right away for cold or flu-like symptoms.

Surviving an emergency often hinges on protecting the airway. From choking to breathing difficulties related to head injuries, EMS professionals must be prepared to act quickly to ensure patients can breathe.

The right portable suction machine can help maintain a patent airway. Many holiday emergencies occur in inaccessible locations, demanding prompt intervention. Portable suction that can travel directly to the patient can be life-saving. For help choosing the right portable suction machine for your agency, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.