Be Responsible for Using Seat Belts!

This Memorial Day weekend I have heard a lot about using seat belts to prevent deaths from motor vehicle accidents. Many states report roughly 60% of people dying in vehicle accidents were not wearing their seat belts.  Haven’t state officials said enough to convince anyone to wear their seat belts while driving? My answer to that is a resounding, yes.

Safety professionals, law enforcement officers, public officials, and even private organizations tell us about the number of people killed in vehicle accidents. We know that using seat belts can save many of those save lives. However, only if the driver takes responsibility for using their seat belt and ensuring others in the vehicle use theirs too.

Using seat belts is now the law. In many states, a law enforcement officer can stop a driver just for not wearing a seatbelt. This has made drivers safer. Why shouldn’t drivers take these precautions because they are concerned? They should. There shouldn’t have to be a law to tell drivers to wear a seatbelt. However, that law has reduced the number of deaths.

I have always been shocked that many drivers won’t take responsibility for wearing seat belts and ensuring all passengers use theirs. These are personal choices. Until drivers accept responsibility for their actions or lack thereof real progress cannot be made. Forcing drivers to be safe seems like the hard way to do this.

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The Danger of Hot Weather to Your Pets

It is that time of year when it gets hot in North America. If it is too hot for you, it is probably too hot for your pets outside. Is it that important to bring your pets in during hot weather? Yes, it is. The Humane Society (2018), on its website, recommends the following practices for “basic summer safety:

  • Never leave your pets in a parked car.”
  • Watch the humidity
  • Limit exercise on hot days
  • Don’t rely on a fan
  • Cool your pets inside and out

These all sound like good ideas to me. My first source of information is always my local veterinarian. They know my animals best and are aware of the specific dangers in my location. There are also many animal associations and societies that can also help. Most dogs like to be outside, and some cats live outside as well. To care for these pets, the Humane Society also recommends that you provide ample shade and water. I could not agree more. Checking on the animal throughout the day is essential. If it gets too hot, remember to bring your pets inside from the heat. The SPCA (2018) recommends that before hot weather that you, “Visit the vet for a spring or early-summer checkup. Make sure your pets get tested for heartworm if they are not on year-round preventative medication.” I always like to keep my animals on years round medications to make sure they stay in good health.

People love to take their dogs with them wherever they go. This behavior leads us to perhaps the most critical danger which is never to leave your dog in a parked car. The news has shown cases where vehicle windows were broken in to rescue a hot dog. Some states have passed laws protecting someone who breaks a vehicle window to protect animals from hot cars. In an article on their website PETA (2018) sums it up perfectly, “Parked cars are deathtraps for dogs: On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 100 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 109 degrees in less than 10 minutes.” Never leave your dog in a vehicle even just for a few minutes.

Another danger that is specific to dogs is walking. Again, I refer you to the PETA (2018) webpage where they say, “When walking your dog, keep in mind that if it feels hot enough to fry an egg outside, it probably is. When the air temperature is 86 degrees, the asphalt can reach a sizzling 135 degrees — more than hot enough to cook an egg in five minutes. Moreover, it can do the same to our canine companions’ sensitive foot pads.” Dogs love to walk, but we must be the adult and not walk them on hot pavement that can hurt them. Hot pavement can injure your dog’s paw pads along with overheating the animal.

Another danger I am always aware of is that not all dogs know how to swim. If there is a pool in the yard, a dog might get in and drown. Supervise dogs around any water sources.

In the summer months in the United States, we have the fourth of July. We celebrate our Independence Day with loud fireworks that can disturb your animals. You should keep the animals inside the house and no use fireworks near the home. Dogs may still react negatively to the loud noises and might need additional assistance. An old dog I had suffered all night from the sound. We bought him a unique shirt that fit him tightly and comforted him a little. I also stayed with the dog to calm him while the sounds occurred.

Be prepared by knowing the signs of heatstroke in animals. The Humane Society (2018) identifies the signs as:

  • “heavy panting,
  • glazed eyes,
  • a rapid heartbeat,
  • difficulty breathing,
  • excessive thirst,
  • lethargy,
  • fever,
  • dizziness,
  • lack of coordination,
  • profuse salivation,
  • vomiting,
  • a deep red or purple tongue,
  • seizure, and
  • unconsciousness.”

Animals that are old or in poor health are more susceptible to heat injuries. Furthermore, Boxers, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Huskies and cats with short muzzles have a hard time breathing in hot weather (HSUSA, 2018). The first aid for an animal that has the signs of heatstroke are (HSUSA, 2018):

  • “Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
  • Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck, and chest or
  • run cool (not cold) water over them.
  • Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
  • Take them directly to a veterinarian.”

My wife had to dwarf rabbits that she placed out on a balcony on a warm afternoon so that they could enjoy the fresh air. Within a few minutes, the rabbits were making strange noises and were both suffering from heatstroke. We took the steps above. One rabbit died while we were trying to cool him. The second pulled through and lived for several more years.

Ticks and fleas are everywhere during the summer months. It is essential to treat your animal before these become a problem. If you have a dog, it is best to treat them for heartworm too. I treat my pets all years round for these dangers.

Pets left outside can become dehydrated quickly. It is essential to give them clean, cool water to drink. I bet you do not like to drink warm water and they do not either. I often place ice cubes in the water to keep it cool.

Pets can be sunburned if left out in the sun. This may be hard to believe, but under your animal’s fur, they have skin. That ski can be sunburned just like your head. It is best to limit the time your pet spends in sunlight.

You and the family might like to barbecue in the backyard during this time of year. Remember that many of the foods at a barbecue might be dangerous to your pet. Onions for one can be deadly. Check your menu and adjust it to protect your pets. It is best to do the same with your outdoor garden.

This summer your pet could be at risk of a hot weather injury, injury from being in a hot vehicle, or suffer from heatstroke. It is up to you to make sure none of these things occur. In this blog post, I have outlined the hazards and some protective measures to take. I encourage you to visit the websites listed in the references and learn more. This summer keep your pets safe.

Reference

Dogs In Hot Cars And On Hot Pavement | Peta, https://www.peta.org/issues/companion-animal-issues/cruel-practices/dog-hot-car/ (accessed May 08, 2018).

Hot weather Safety Tips, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Retrieved on May 8, 2018, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/hot-weather-safety-tips. (accessed May 8, 2018).

Hot Weather and Your Pet – Cat Depot Home, http://www.catdepot.org/resources/library/hot-weather-and-your-pet.aspx (accessed May 08, 2018).

Keep Pets Safe In The Heat: The Humane Society Of The United States, http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_safe_heat_wave.html?cre (accessed May 08, 2018).

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Steps to Prepare for Severe Weather

Each year thunderstorms, lightning, hail, and tornadoes damage property and injure people. There are things that you can do to prepare yourself. As I write this post in Kansas, we haven’t had a tornado here or in Oklahoma this year. If you live in either of these states, you should still prepare.

Plan how each family member will contact the others if a storm occurs when you and your family members are at work and school. Have a common meeting place just in case your home is damaged so severely you can’t go back to it. Build a home storm kit that includes a flashlight (extra batteries), a small battery powered radio (extra battery), a blanket, water (1-2 gallons), a first-aid kit, candles, matches, and spare medications that family members might need to take. Identify a place in your home that will be safe. This could be a basement, room inside the center of the house, or a bathroom. Monitor the path and severity of storm warnings on television. Be prepared to switch to your radio if you lose television reception or power goes out. When weather approaches, you should plan for the lights to go out. Know where the candles are and how to light them quickly. If you are using a well plan to lose water. Be prepared to ration use of the toilet and fill the tub with water to flush the toilet. Also get out the water you have stored for drinking. You usually are safer inside of a structure in a thunderstorm than outside.

If you are in a motor vehicle, it may be your only means of protection. It is safer to stay in the car if the storm does not include a tornado. You should have a severe weather kit for your vehicle that consists of a flashlight (extra batteries), a blanket, water (1-2 pints), and a first-aid kit. After the storm, it is best to remain with your car if it will not start. You will typically get help faster by staying with your vehicle.

If you see lightning or hear thunder seek protection. If you are in a building stay off the landline phones and don’t touch any water pipes. If you are in a vehicle, don’t contact any metal parts, which can conduct electricity. If you are outside seeking shelter in a building, motor vehicle, under any overhead cover, or a group of trees using the lightning strike position. Don’t attempt shelter under a single tree. That single tree is more likely to be struck by lightning. Don’t lie or sit on the ground. Lightning often runs along the ground. The more body contact you have with the ground, the more likely it is you will be shocked. The lightning strike position is to squat down on both feet, wrap your arms around your knees and rest your head on your knees.

Always take tornado watches and warnings seriously. Seek immediate shelter if a tornado is coming. Know what county you live in and the counties that border yours. Note the direction that the storm is moving as you watch television or listen to the radio. If you hear a siren, seek immediate shelter and use your portable radio to learn about the danger. Don’t come out of the shelter before the storm is over. Teach your children to return home immediately or seek refuge in a neighbor’s home. This will prevent a parent from going out in the storm to look for a child. It is also dangerous to go out in a storm to rescue pets.

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Tips to Help Your Teen Survive Prom

Introduction

It is that time of year again. Maybe this year it is your teen who will be attending Prom. Prom is an excellent time for parent and teen, and it marks the closure of the teen’s formal education and their move into life. Unfortunately, many teens are not as mature as other and make bad decisions that can cost them their lives. The good news is that you the parent can make a big difference in your teen’s Prom decisions and there are plenty of organizations that want to help you.

The Dangers

Rebecca Lake wrote an excellent article for Credit Donkey titled 23 Prom Night Statistics Every Parent Should Read. In her article (2016) she writes “Accidents are the number one cause of death for young people aged 12 to 19, and those involving motor vehicles are the most common. Statistics show roughly a third of alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities occur between April and June, which is considered the peak of prom season.” Wow, that is shocking news especially since it is illegal for that age group to consume alcohol.

Speaking of alcohol, Rebecca (2016) tells us that “Drug and Alcohol use is more common than you think.” That is disappointing to me as a parent, and I am sure for you as well. Rebecca got her information from a survey of teens aged 16 to 19. Rebecca (2016) reported that the survey said:

  • 1% of those that responded, “said it was likely that they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol on prom night (Lake, 2016).”
  • 84% of those that responded, “said their friends would be more likely to get behind the wheel after drinking than to call home for a ride (if they believed they would get in trouble for using alcohol) (Lake, 2016).”
  • 22% of those that responded, “said they would ride in a car with someone who was impaired instead of calling their parents (Lake, 2016).”

I can relate to some of this information because a friend and neighbor of mine had a son that it took him and his wife many years to have. It was their only child. As a teenager, he got into the car with a drunk friend behind the wheel and died when the driver had an accident. There is no way to replace this young man. I know he loved his parents, but I also know he took a terrible risk and lost his life.

Since drinking seems to be a significant danger for teens, let’s look at another article at Promise.com titled Prom Night and Teen Drinking: The Facts (2018). “High school prom is a milestone in the life of nearly every American teenager. Unfortunately, prom night drinking typically occurs in tandem with this special event. For many teens, prom may be the first time they ever drink alcohol, or the first time they binge drink and get truly drunk  (Promise.2018).” Mix that with driving, and you have a recipe for death. In this article (2018) the author states that “approximately 300 teens have died in alcohol-related traffic accidents during prom weekends over the past several years.” That is more than enough death to cause all parents to want to act.

If your teen is a daughter, there are other concerns you may have for Prom night. Carleton Kendrick wrote an excellent article for Huffington Post titled Prom, Death and Sexual Assault: Helping Your Teen Make Safe, Smart Decisions — The Talk, The Ride, The Connection, The Offer. In this article, he notes that “most date rapes and sexual assaults against girls are alcohol and drug-related.” If you already knew that then maybe you knew another point he made that “A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services national survey reported 39% of high school senior boys considered it acceptable to force sex on a girl who is intoxicated by alcohol or high on drugs.” If those two don’t scare you to death, they ought to. If your teen is a son, you need to make sure he knows these two points also.

Actions to Reduce the Danger

Lucky for parents Promise.com (2018) also has an article titled Tips for Parents: Talk to Your Teen About Prom Night Drinking Hazards. In that article (2018) it states that “statistics show that talking to teens about the issue and working with them to take safety measures makes a big difference. In fact, it is thought that proactive parents contributed to a 53% reduction in driver deaths among 15- to 19-year-olds between 2005 and 2014.” If I could recommend only one tip to you as a parent to reduce the dangers of Prom night, this would be it. However, I am not limited to just one tip.

Another article titled Remember your prom experience? This article provides brochures that highlight other tips for you and your teen. They also have them in Spanish. The Westchester Government makes the brochures themselves. I encourage parents to download these brochures and discuss them with your teen before Prom. If your teen is riding in a limo, speak directly with that limo company owner about his company’s alcohol and drug policies. Do business only with a company/owner who forbids the presence and consumption of alcohol and other drugs in his vehicles. The brochure on Contract Tips and Prom Night Fact Sheet can help you with this.

Kendrick (2018) also recommends you talk to your teen about your concerns. Here is my abridged version:

  • Have a pre-prom talk with your teen.
  • Discuss drinking, drug use, driving under the influence and sex.
  • Get their complete itinerary for the evening.
  • Decide on a curfew.
  • Your teen cannot drink or take drugs and drive.
  • If they are not driving themselves, they must ride with someone who has not and will not drink alcohol or take drugs.
  • If they are going to other teens’ houses after the prom, check ahead of time with these teen’s parents.

Kendrick (2018) also says to give your children the unconditional option of calling you at any time for help or advice. That includes an “offer to pick them up at any time of day or night, with a promise not to shame or humiliate them in front of others, nor to condemn or shame them once you get them in the car or back home.”

Summary

Prom can be a great time in your teen’s life. It can also be a perilous time too. Experts recommend talking to your teen about the dangers of Prom and help them identify what they are going to do to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of those dangers. Together you and your teen can plan a safe and enjoyable Prom. You can find other resources at SADD or Students Against Drunk Driving and MADD or Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Your local Police and Sheriff’s Offices can also provide local safety information for Prom. One closing note is to give your teen the Kendrick offer: “an unconditional option of calling you at any time for help or advice. That includes an offer to pick them up at any time of day or night, with a promise not to shame or humiliate them in front of others, nor to condemn or shame them once you get them in the car or back home.” You will not regret it.

References

Lake, Rebecca. 23 Prom Night Statistics Every Parent Should Read. Retrieved on April 6, 2018, from https://www.creditdonkey.com/prom-night-statistics.html

 

“Prom Night & Teen Drinking: The Facts | Promises.” Alcohol and Alcoholism. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2018 <https://www.promises.com/articles/alcoholabuse/prom-night-teen-drinking-facts/&gt;.

 

Kendrick, Carleton, Huffington Post. The Blog. Prom, Death and Sexual Assault: Helping Your Teen Make Safe, Smart Decisions — The Talk, The Ride, The Connection, The Offer. Retrieved on April 6, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/carleton-kendrick/prom-death-and-sexual-assault_b_3115940.html.

 

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Falls Leading Cause of Death

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. In addition to falls from scaffolding, there are falls from open-sided floors or through floor openings. Falls from as little as six feet can cause serious lost-time accidents and even death. OSHA 29 CFR Part 1926, subpart M is the primary source of information for these types of hazards. To prevent falls, guard open-sided floors and platforms six feet or more above ground.

If a worker can fall six feet or more onto a lower level, some form of fall protection must be provided. It is the employer’s responsibility to guard the danger and implement a fall protection system to protect the worker. Where and when is fall, protection required? The answer is that fall protection is required when workers are performing the following work:

  • Roofing
  • Bricklaying
  • Excavating
  • Wall Openings
  • Walkways and Ramps
  • Residential Construction
  • Concrete Forms and Rebar
  • Open Sides, Edges, and Holes

Prior to choosing fall protection for hazards on the building site, it is important to know it consists of four options:

  • Guardrails
  • Safety Nets
  • Monitors
  • Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS)

In addition to falling off an object, a worker could step onto and break through skylights and other openings on roofs, the floor, and above the ground. These skylights and openings must be protected if more than six feet above the ground. On sites, holes in the floors must be covered completely and securely. If the cover isn’t available, the hole can be protected with a guardrail. It is necessary to use a PFAS when working on formwork or rebar. This is because there is a high risk of a worker falling onto the rebar and being impaled. To prevent this, protruding rebar must be covered or capped. The cap referred to here is a plastic cap that has a surface larger than the rebar that is installed over the tip of rebar to prevent the impaling.

Guardrails are handrails used to steady a worker while they work on ramps, runways, and other walkways where the employee can fall six feet or more to the ground. Guardrails consist of a top rail between 38 and 42 inches off the bottom surface, toeboards at least 3 ½ inches and a mid-rail in between. If working on a roof, tethers or restraints can be used to prevent workers from reaching the edge, thereby preventing falls. Safety nets can also be used to catch workers if they fall.

Safety nets should be hung as close as possible, but no more than 30 feet below the work area. Falls of more than 30 feet can result in workers injured by landing in the net. As noted earlier, it may be better to install a safety net below the workers to catch them if they fall. In 29 CFR 1926.502, it states that “safety nets shall be installed with sufficient clearance under them to prevent contact with the surface or structures below when subjected to an impact force equal to the drop test specified in OSHA 1926”.

Monitors can also be used. These are fellow workers that watch the locations of employees and stop them from getting close to the edge. This is the least desirable of all the systems because it relies on a worker to pay attention. There is usually a line of flags placed several feet back from the edge to help the monitor identify when a worker gets too close to the edge.

PFAS is comprehensive fall prevention that consists of an anchorage, lifeline, and body harness. Anchorage points secure the worker to a fixed object. The PFAS is harnessed in the worker’s upper back. If the worker falls, an arrest system slows and stops the falling worker before he or she strikes the ground. The anchor must be independent of any platform anchorage and capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per person on the PFAS. Lifelines are ropes that can slow and hold the fallen worker. Back belts are never acceptable replacements for PFAS. A body belt is fastened at the waist and connected at the front waist of the worker. If used by a falling employee there is no arrest system to slow the worker and when the belt catches, the worker would likely break their back. Body belts are used to hold a worker at elevation and should not be expected to do anything else.

If an employee falls and is saved by a PFAS or a net, he or she will need to be rescued. You cannot simply pick the person up; the human body is dead weight at this point and would take lots of effort to pull up on a rope. An emergency preparedness plan must be in place that includes procedures for obtaining help from local emergency authorities like the fire department or emergency medical services. Early coordination is required between the construction company and the local authorities to ensure that the local authorities can rescue a worker after a fall and, in fact, will respond. Some emergency organizations are not capable of performing a fall rescue, and others won’t perform the rescue because of legal restrictions. If an emergency organization is found that can and will help, it is important to invite them for a site visit to ensure the emergency personnel is familiar with the location before an emergency occurs.

Training

The best person to prevent a fall is the worker; however, they must know what to do to keep from falling. Employers must let the workers know they want them to speak up when other workers are not using fall protection when they should. It is the company that must provide fall protection training. The training is to teach the worker how to recognize and minimize risks. The training must include fall hazards, protection systems, and fall protection devices. The employer must have a competent person appointed to oversee the preparation and use of fall protection. The competent person must have training that will prepare them to fulfill the duties as the competent person on a project where fall protection is needed. Employers must also provide training to workers who will assist in the use of fall protection. Workers must be trained again if the conditions change or workers demonstrate behavior that indicates they aren’t using proper procedures.

In all cases, it is important to document the content of the training as well as dates and times of training. A performance examination should also be used to verify the desired learning took place. The best practice is to have workers and trainers sign a roster to certify the training. Keep all training records for five years.

Summary

The costs associated with a fall can break a company and ruin the lives of workers and their families. Fall protection systems and work practices must be in place before workers start to work six feet or more above ground level to prevent falls. Some alternatives can be used. Workers can perform work at ground level with prefabricated items on the ground and lift them into place with a crane. This can reduce the time working at an elevation, which reduces the risk. A lift can also be used to raise workers to the work area. Whatever method is used to control the hazards of fall protection is time and money well spent. OSHA has developed an entire web page to address fall protection that is a solid place to find information. The URL is https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection/.

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Is Your Home Trying to Kill You?

You might not know this, but the average American home can be a dangerous place to live. This is because of the hazards we create and allow to exist in our homes. The leading causes of accidental deaths are a failure to identify hazards, underestimating personal risk, and overestimating our own abilities. More than 50% of all disabling injuries occur during off work hours. Where do most of us spend our off-work hours? For many of us that is home.

The fact that your home could catch fire is a horrifying thought for many of us. However, it is a genuine consideration. Children playing with fire cause many home fires. In our homes, we should use child-resistant lighters, store matches, and lighters up high, preferably locked-up, and never let children play with matches or lighters. Our homes are also at risk of an electrical fire. Many of these fires are caused by our own neglect. Each of us should not overload extension cords, replace fraying or overheating cords, and use proper size fuses in circuits. We should never run electrical wires under rugs, through walls, or through door or window openings. Each of these can damage the cord, and we probably will not even know it.

At one time or another, most of us will have small children at home, and they can be most at risk for an accident. Many children drown in the house. The bathtub is the leading cause. Never leave a child unattended in or near a tub of water. Many parents or adults leave the room for what appear to be safe and logical reasons. Those reasons might include: answering the door, answering the phone, or perhaps responding to another child. Do not leave the child unattended take them with you. Another cause of drowning in children is a pail of cleaning water. Children fall into the bucket while parents are not paying attention. Many children die not from drowning but from chemical pneumonia from the cleaning solvents in the water.

There are many children injured in the home by appliances. The cooking stove in the kitchen is one that parents should place off-limits to their children. Do this to prevent the child from pulling a pan of hot material off the stove onto them. However, the sides and front of the stove may also be hazardous. Most ovens will have a hot outside to them while using. This surface can be more than 140 degrees. That means that in addition to the tradition of keeping children away from the pots and pans on top of the stove they need to stay away from the sides and front.

Home remodeling can also create hazards for our families. Whenever possible use latex-based paints and stains. Be sure the painted area is well ventilated until completely dry. When painting, keep all oil-based paints and stains away from heat and open flame. Store paints, cleaners, and solvents outside the home in a fireproof container and keep all painting materials out of the reach of children.

You should also use appropriate clothing, shoes, and gloves for the task you are doing.  This will include proper hearing, seeing, and breathing protection. You should also carefully inspect all tools and equipment before using them.  Read and follow instructions on paints, solvents, glues, and other chemicals and materials. Inspect ladders before using them and position ladders correctly. An extension ladder should be used at an angle with the bottom about ¼ of the height away from the wall. Stepladders should be used on a flat level surface, and you should never use the top step. Dispose of all waste correctly, safely, and quickly. Don’t leave it around for children or animals to get into. Plan ahead-take your time-haste still makes waste when remodeling or repairing your home.

To keep your home safe, take a few minutes and ask yourself some questions. What will the next accident bein my house? Who will it likely involve? What should I be doing to prevent it? Take the answers you get from these questions and avoid future accidents. The lives and well-being of you and your family are at stake.

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It won’t happen to me!

Staying safe is really a matter of belief. When I did dangerous things as a child, which I thought were safe, my parents set me straight. Later when I went bungee jumping, which I thought was safe, my friends set me straight. When I rode a motorcycle, which I thought was safe, my wife set me straight. Why is it always someone else that recognizes what we are doing is unsafe?

It boils down to our belief system. As a child when I saw people do dangerous things and walked away unhurt they were lauded as risk takers or brave. When someone did something dangerous and got hurt, they were stupid. Since the dangerous stuff, I want to do is my idea I don’t think I am dumb instead I think I will be lauded for my adventurous spirit or adventurous. Never stupid.

You may recognize this as denial, and you are right; however, each time I do something and don’t get hurt or damage something I reinforce my own belief system that it can’t happen to me.

Unfortunately, many other people think the same way I do and that is why you can’t just tell us to be safe because it won’t happen to us.

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