WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Halloween is a “boo-tiful” time of year. On Halloween, ghosts and ghouls may make your blood run cold, but the real dangers can be pedestrian accidents, falls, burns, and even poisonings. It’s important to remind everyone how they can safe during the spooky celebrations.

According to the Halloween & Costume Association, this will be the biggest Halloween celebration in U.S. history, as 93% of all Americans are planning to celebrate, which is over 300 million people.

The Halloween & Costume Association, Safe Kids Kansas, AAA, the Kansas State Fire Marshal, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the National Fire Protection Association, OffenderWatch, Nextdoor, Beggin, and Purnia have all released their safety tips and statistics for helping you and your family stay safe this year.

Fire safety

According to a news release from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 770 home structure fires began with decorations between 2014 and 2019, resulting in one death, 26 fire injuries, and $13 million in property damage.

The NFPA and Kansas State Fire Marshal have offered a list of tips and guidelines for enjoying a fire-safe Halloween:

  • Decorations: Many common decorations like cornstalks, crepe paper, hay bales, and dried flowers are very flammable. Keep these and similar decorations far away from any open flames or heat sources, like candles, heaters, and light bulbs.
  • Candles: Using candles as decoration can be risky if not done correctly. Keep them in a well-attended area out of the path of potential trick-or-treaters. Remind children of the dangers of open flames, and make sure they are always supervised when candles are lit.
  • Extinguish candles before leaving an area: Set a reminder to blow out any candles and unplug lights at the end of the evening.
  • Jack-o-lanterns: Glow sticks or electric candles are the safest choices when it comes to lighting up your jack-o-lantern, but if you choose to use a real candle, do so with extreme caution. Light a candle inside a jack-o-lantern using long fireplace matches or a utility lighter and keep it away from other decorations.
  • Visibility: Give children flashlights or glowsticks for lighting. These can even be incorporated into the costume.
  • Smoke Alarms: This is a great time to make sure your smoke alarms are functional and up to date.
  • Exits: Exits are NOT an appropriate place for decorations. When decorating, ensure that nothing is blocking any escape routes.

Costume safety

  • Shine, sparkle and glow: 82% of parents don’t use reflective tape or other high visibility aids on their child’s costume. Be sure to incorporate reflective tape, glow sticks, finger lights, battery-powered fairy lights, or light-up accessories. If possible, choose light colors.
  • Tighten up: Make sure your fit is just right! Avoid costumes that drag and oversized masks to prevent trips and falls.
  • Non-flammable: Choose costumes and decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant. Avoid fabric that billows or trails behind you, as these can easily ignite. If you are making your own costume, avoid loosely woven fabrics like linen and cotton, which can be very flammable.
  • See clearly: Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.

Trick-or-treat safety

  • Stick Together: Halloween is way more fun with friends and fam! Go out in groups, there’s safety in numbers.
  • Walk safely: Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween. Discuss safety with them, even if you are tagging along.
    • Remind kids to walk; don’t run.
    • Always walk on sidewalks or paths. Don’t walk through neighbors’ yards, as there may be a hazard you can’t see.
    • If there are no sidewalks along your street, walk on the road facing traffic as far to left as possible.
    • Always stop and look before you cross the street, and cross at corners using signals and crosswalks whenever possible.
    • Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
    • Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.
    • Make eye contact and wave to drivers before crossing in front of them.
  • Drive safe:
    • Stay alert and slow down for trick-or-treaters and costumed characters. Pay extra attention to kids crossing in the middle of the block.
    • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited about Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
    • Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
    • Watch out for pedestrians when turning at intersections. Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
    • Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., so be especially alert for kids during those hours.
    • Turn your headlights on to make yourself more visible, even in the daylight.
  • Don’t get distracted: While it’s a good idea for children to have a cell phone with them in case of an emergency, remind them to pay attention to their surroundings. Don’t be distracted from hazards because you are texting or talking on the phone
  • Talk about it: 65% of parents don’t discuss Halloween safety with their children. Talk with your kids and offer ways to ensure a fun and safe experience.
    • Talk to your teens who may be attending parties and haunted houses to look for the exits and have a way out in case of an emergency.
    • Instruct children to travel only in familiar areas and along established routes.
    • Teach children to stop only at well-lit houses and driveways.
    • Ask your children to provide you with updates if they have an electronic device capable of doing so.
  • Tag along: 70% of parents don’t accompany their children trick or treating. It is recommended that children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well-lit, stick to a pre-planned route and trick-or-treat in groups. You’re never too old to trick-or-treat! Grab a costume, enjoy some family bonding, and be sure to claim your treat tax!
  • Lighten up: 63% of children don’t carry a flashlight while they’re trick or treating. Grab a clip-on light if they don’t want to carry one!
  • Inspect before eating: Parents and kids should also be careful with candy. It’s hard to resist the temptation to dive right into treats, but it is best to check sweets before children are allowed to eat them. Only eat treats in original and unopened wrappers.

Party safety

Halloween isn’t just about trick-or-treating. It’s also about costume parties.

  • Arrange a safe ride home and/or designate a driver before you attend festivities.
  • Always designate a sober driver.
  • If you are drunk, take a taxi or ride-share service, call a sober friend or family member or use public transportation.
  • Before leaving for a party, load ride-share apps or put numbers of local cab companies or your designated driver(s) into your phone.
  • Walking impaired can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.

Pet safety

Nextdoor, Beggin, and Purnia have partnered together for Nexdoors Treat Map and have even offered a Halloween pet safety list:

  • Stash your candy: Chocolate can be deadly for dogs and cats, as well as artificial sweeteners. Always make sure to keep your treats separate from human treats!
  • Keep them on a leash: If your dog is joining your family trick-or-treating, it’s important to keep them close – especially when it’s more chaotic and spooky than normal. Keep your costumed critters on a leash or left safely inside. Tags and microchips can help avoid lost loved ones.
  • Consider their doorbell stress levels: If your dog gets anxious about the doorbell ringing and the door opening and closing, put them in their secure, safe space away from the door.
  • Make sure they have up-to-date ID tags on their collar: With the flurry of activity, dogs can get spooked and confused. Make sure they’re wearing an ID in case they get loose.
  • Careful with costumes: Make sure nothing is constricting their breathing or movement, and avoid anything that could be considered a choking hazard. A costume made for pets doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good fit for your pet. Keep an eye on them, and if they’re unhappy, don’t force it!
  • More safety tips: https://www.purina.com/articles

Neighborhood safety

Utilizing neighborhood resources, such as Nextdoor, is a great way to stay safe. Nextdoor is an app for neighborhoods where you can get local tips, buy and sell items, assist neighbors, post about lost and found pets, and help keep the area safe. According to Nexdoor, one in three houses use the platform.

Nextdoor offers a Treat Map that is both kid and pet-friendly. Houses can list if they are handing out candy, have a public Halloween display, and indicate if their house is offering pet treats, saving families time when out at night and helping them stay alert.

Offender list

One topic that is difficult to think about is the idea of violent and/or sex offenders living in your neighborhood or the neighborhood your children will be trick-or-treating.

OffenderWatch has provided the following tips for finding and understanding offenders in your area:

  1. Use a sex offender registry published by law enforcement. Not all registries are created equal: Many third-party websites publish outdated sex offender data, claiming it is accurate. Parents and guardians should only trust data provided through local law enforcement.
  2. Use the map/geographical feature to find offenders in your area. While on your county or city’s sex offender registry, input your home address or the address where you’ll be trick-or-treating to view a map of offenders in that area. Print out the map with addresses to take with you.
  3. Understand the difference between offender risk levels and tiers in your state. Every state identifies sex offenders differently, segmenting offenses with risk levels and tiers. Visit your state police website to find a list of offenses, risk levels and descriptions.
  4. Talk to your children. If sex offenders live in your neighborhood, point out their house to your children and explain the offender has a criminal record. Tell your children to let you know if the sex offender tries to talk to them or lure them inside.

To view the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office Offender Search, click here.

To view the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Public Offender Registry, click here.