An added safety caution this Halloween – watch for rainbow fentanyl

By Chief Sam DiGiovanna

With Halloween just weeks away, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is warning parents to check your children's candy very closely this year.

Calling it an "alarming emerging trend," the DEA said "rainbow fentanyl" — brightly colored pills containing the highly dangerous and toxic drug — is a new method drug dealers are using to make fentanyl look like candy to children and young people.

The trend among adolescents follows a wider one. Annual drug overdose deaths have reached another record high in the United States, with an estimated 104,288 in the 12-month period ending September 2021, according to provisional data published Wednesday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Rainbow fentanyl comes in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes — even some resembling sidewalk chalk — and is a "deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults."

As an extra layer of precaution, drug enforcement agents are asking parents to check your children's candy very carefully this Halloween. If you see something suspicious, call 911 immediately.

As a kid, this was always one of my favorite holidays. Carving pumpkins, dreaming up a costume (then trying to make it) and collecting pillowcases full of candy. What could be better?

As firefighters, we have seen the spooky side of Halloween — and I am not talking haunted houses. No, it is children out on the streets at night, often wearing costumes that restrict their ability to see and be seen. Its candles being used carelessly in jack-o-lanterns or children carving pumpkins while unsupervised by an adult. It is lots of people traipsing through unfamiliar yards and neighborhoods.

We've all responded to calls of children injured during this time of year. In fact, most kids are killed or injured crossing the street on Halloween than any other night of the year.

Halloween can be both safe and fun — it just takes a little planning. No costume needed. Be the real hero this Halloween and get the word out now to your community with PSAs and news releases in movie theaters, schools and more. Here are some tips to consider in your campaign:

  • Carve safely! Carving pumpkins can be tons of fun for kids, but make sure that all carving activities are fully supervised by an adult. To ensure that kids can participate, have adults make the needed cuts and ask children to dig out pumpkin seeds or refine the edges of cuts with a spoon. If you are working with very young children, skip the knives all together and decorate pumpkins with markers, glitter glue or paint.
  • Use flameless candles. They are safe, inexpensive, and just like the real thing — without the fire risk. If you insist on using real candles, place candlelit pumpkins on a sturdy surface away from curtains and other flammable objects. Never leave candlelit pumpkins unattended.
  • Ensure others can see your children. If possible, create costumes out of bright colors. But if you must go over to the Dark Side, place reflective strips or tape in strategic places on your child's costume, much like equipping a bike with reflectors. You can also consider clipping a flashing bike light onto their treats bag. Several companies make small, lightweight, inexpensive lights that can be used for these purposes.
  • Ensure your child can see others. A mask can obstruct your child's peripheral vision, increasing the chance that they will trip or bump into objects.
  • Do not let children under the age of 12 trick-or-treat alone. Enough said!
  • Set ground rules for older children. No one should leave the house without agreeing when to be back and what route to use. Provide them with a cellphone and a flashlight with fresh batteries and review basic safety rules, including staying with the group, walking only on the sidewalk, approaching only clearly lit homes, and never going inside a home or car for a treat.
  • Inspect treats before indulging. Although tampering with candy is rare, it is best to inspect all candy before letting your child eat it. (This will also ensure you are regulating how much they are eating!). Discard torn packages, unsealed treats or anything that just does not look right. For young children, remove gum, peanuts, hard candies, and other choking hazards. And watch out for ingredients that may trigger food allergies.
  • Make your house trick-or-treat friendly. Do not be that one house on the block that everyone is afraid of because the dog barks and lunges at people and the porch light is out. Before it gets dark, clean up the yard and the walkway and check to ensure the outside lights work. Place the pets in a safe room away from the front door. If the doorbell bothers your cat or dog, tape over it and keep the door open so you can see trick-or-treaters coming and meet them. And remember that black cats left outside on Halloween can become targets for mischief; best to bring them in.
  • Which way? If your older children are going alone, plan and review a route acceptable to you
  • Time management. Agree on a specific time children should return home
  • Situational awareness! Teach your children never to enter a stranger's home or car
  • Make your Cell phone a ghost. Children and adults are reminded to put electronic devices down, keep heads up and walk, don't run, across the street

Do not be scared… Take the Halloween safety quiz: https://lnkd.in/gCuBBccp

If you are responding on a call, watch for children darting between parked cars or crossing in difficult-to-see places. Be especially careful entering or leaving driveways and alleys.

With some planning and commonsense safety, you can leave the "spooky" side of Halloween to the ghosts — and create a memorable, exciting experience for your community.

Sam DiGiovanna is a 40-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department, and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif. He also is a consultant for Lexipol Fire Services.