Be a Safety Santa this Holiday Season

Police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel and tow truck operators face inclement weather and long work hours, often while helping people who are suffering immeasurably.

But you can do your part to keep emergency responders safe and ensure they get home to their loved ones this Christmas. And it doesn’t take much work to provide a safe environment for first responders, whether you’re behind the wheel, at work or at home.

No one expects to call on first responders over the holidays but it’s important to look at your workplace and your house from their perspective, says Ian Wilson, Managing Director of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF).

“Many businesses are closed over the holidays and homes are left unattended for days or weeks,” says Wilson. “First responders may need to go into homes or businesses during an emergency. Often they are entering unfamiliar areas under stressful conditions and the lighting is poor. That’s why it’s so important to eliminate hazards and provide safe passage to emergency responders who are there to help.”


Here are some home and workplace safety tips to consider this holiday season:

  • Do a quick hazard assessment: ask yourself what could go wrong and how you can eliminate hazards
  • Make sure exits are accessible and you can easily leave through doors and certain windows during an emergency
  • Ensure hallways and stairwells are free of clutter and trip hazards
  • Check that alarms – fire, carbon monoxide, security – are functioning properly
  • Inspect decorations – are they flammable? Are they obstructing exits, hallways, stairways? Are they trip hazards?
  • Make sure items are safely stacked, stored and labeled (if necessary) at work and home
  • Regularly clear snow and ice from driveways, walkways and entrances at home and work

“No one expects to have a medical emergency or a fire or a break-and-enter at their home or business, but the reality is these things happen and when they do it’s first responders that have to tend to them,” says Wilson.

“That’s why it’s important to look at things from the perspective of emergency responders. Can they get in and out safely? Can they get around while carrying someone on a stretcher? Does your workplace have sensor lighting in effect after hours? These are all good questions to consider.”


Practicing safe driving habits is also key, especially when the roads get icy, visibility is reduced and the number of impaired drivers on the roads increases. Here are some tips that will help keep you and first responders working in traffic safe this holiday season:

  • Slow down when passing motor vehicle collisions and emergency scenes
  • Slow down and provide a buffer lane (if possible) when passing stopped emergency vehicles that have their lights on
  • Slow down when passing first responders who are working on roadways and roadsides
  • Yield the right of way to emergency vehicles that have their lights and sirens on. Pull over. Let them pass
  • Check your rearview mirror every 10 seconds – someone may need to get past you
  • Do not follow within 150 metres of any emergency vehicle that has lights and sirens operating
  • Put the phone away while driving! No phone calls, texts or social media
  • Don’t take pictures of emergency scenes while you drive past – this is distracting and can cause another collision
  • Avoid other distractions while driving: food, grooming, music/radio being too loud

“First responders are vulnerable when they’re working on and along busy roadways, so please slow down and watch out for them when you see flashing lights,” says Wilson.

“It’s also important to give them room to work. Safely move over into another lane if you’re able to and yield the right of way to emergency vehicles that need to get by. They could be helping someone you love.”

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