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THE SAFETY ZONE | JERRY HICKS

2 Years of Preaching and Practice

November 06, 2000|JERRY HICKS

Writing a column on safety, you glean a lot of terrific expert tips for your own life while you pass it all along to readers.

But there's one disadvantage: You're always on the hot seat if you do something unsafe.

"Don't you read your own column?" my wife has said to me more than once.

Like when I've failed to wash my hands immediately after handling raw chicken. Or I've left something cooking on the stove while outside chatting with a neighbor.

It was two years ago this week that the editors created this column. Their idea was to increase our awareness about how we can make our environments safer. It's an education for the writer as well as the reader . . .

You can take dirt off the ground and sprinkle it on your eggs and be safer than if you eat eggs stored at the wrong temperature, Orange County environmental health specialist William Ford reminded us.

We discovered that helmets were a growing trend among Orange County horse riders. "I don't put my foot into the stirrup unless I'm wearing a helmet," said Ruthana Bridges, who gives riding lessons in Santiago Canyon.

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I found out the hard way--by falling off my roof at home--that you don't go roof climbing without proper shoes--and a sturdy ladder in good condition to help you get there safely.

Since a column on hair salon inspections, I've shied away from stylists who don't clean up hair from the previous customer, or don't wash their hands thoroughly between customers.

A column on tattoo parlors convinced me: Don't get one.

I've been much more scrupulous about vehicle service since a column on auto body repair fraud. You had a part replaced? Make them show you the old one so you'll know.

The best tip for me, hands down, came from Sgt. Ted Labahn of the Anaheim Police Department. He suggested that when you're stopped first in traffic and the light turns green, take just a single second to look to the left before moving your vehicle forward.

"Just make it a habit," he said. "It could save your life."

Taking his advice a few months back, I was surprised to see a car running a red light and barreling across in front of me. My front end would have been dead center in its path. But I'd given it the Labahn left look first and avoided disaster.

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In that first column two years ago, I wrote about fire safety. That's because some of the most tragic stories I've covered in my career have been fire deaths that could have been avoided through common sense.

I interviewed Maria Sabol for that column. She's an education specialist for the Orange County Fire Authority who talked about the need for families to practice fire drills--with everyone in the family knowing the designated gathering spot outside in case of a house fire. Tragic deaths have occurred, she said, because a parent jumped back into burning flames to save a child when it turned out the child was already safe on the other side of the house.

I called Sabol again this week to see what she's been up to. She's deeply involved in a new "falls and fires" safety promotion for seniors. The two are the single greatest cause of injury to seniors, she said. Some, however, still resist her advice.

Here's one thing that certainly hasn't changed in two years. When we first began this column, smoking was the leading cause of fires involving fatalities. The same holds true this year.

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Readers may reach Hicks by calling (714) 966-7789 or e-mail to jerry.hicks@latimes.com.

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