Holiday safety tips
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Well, it’s still true – especially around the holidays. Busy, distracted people make ideal targets for criminals, and home safety standards can slip when we’re tired. Observe these precautions this Christmas and help keep the season merry and bright for you and yours.
• Try to avoid going shopping alone or at night. If you must shop at night, park in a well-lighted area. When possible, use the buddy system and take a friend with you.
“To a criminal, even two people can look like a crowd and make it not worth their while to approach you,” says Darlington Police Chief Danny Watson.
• Park as close as possible to the store and remember where you parked. Lock car doors, roll up your windows, and be sure to set your alarm or security system if you have one.
• Be visible; don’t park next to vans, trucks with tall camper shells, or large vehicles that can provide cover for robbers.
• Don’t leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. Lock tempting items in the trunk or hide them out of sight.
• Get your keys out and ready before going to your car, and hang on to your purse and packages.
• Be aware of your surroundings. If you see suspicious people hanging around your vehicle, ask store security if they could help you to your car.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; use checks or credit cards where possible. Secure all receipts from retailers, restaurants, and ATMs, and watch out for misplaced cards and ID. Keeping these items organized in your purse or wallet now can cut down on stress later.
“It helps if you always put your credit cards, ID, and receipts in the same place every time,” says Chief Watson. “That way, even if you’re distracted, you automatically put them away and don’t lose track of them.”
• Lock doors and windows when you leave the house, even if you’re heading out on a short errand.
• Arrange mail and newspaper pick-up with neighbors if you’ll be away from home for several days.
• Put indoor and outdoor lights on timers.
• Don’t tempt burglars by leaving piles of wrapped gifts in highly visible spots, where they can be seen through windows or doors.
• Remember that daylight offers little to no protection from burglars. Chief Watson says that many Christmas season break-ins take place during the day when residents are out working, running errands, or visiting friends.
Be Wary of Strangers at Your Door
Criminals have been known to pose as couriers delivering gifts. If you don’t see their delivery vehicle, ask to see some identification before you open the door to sign for the package.
Fake charity drives are a growing concern around the holidays, with clipboard-wielding crooks hitting up folks for Christmas donations. If you’re suspicious, ask to see some ID and quiz them about the charity – how the money will be used, etc. But remember its safer to donate only to recognized charity organizations.
• Be sure to eat before consuming alcoholic beverages, preferably fatty and protein-rich foods that will slow the absorption of alcohol.
• Know your safe drinking limit and remember that even a little buzz could mean you are over South Carolina’s .08 Blood Alcohol Content limit.
• If you plan to indulge, or end up over consuming, use a designated driver, a sober van, or call a taxi. It’s worth the extra expense to get home safely.
Ten More Tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International
1. Inspect electrical decorations for damage before use. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire.
2. Do not overload electrical outlets. Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are a common cause of holiday fires. Avoid overloading outlets and plug only one high-wattage appliance into each outlet at a time.
3. Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights. More than three strands may not only blow a fuse, but can also cause a fire.
4. Keep tree fresh by watering daily. Dry trees are a serious fire hazard.
5. Use battery-operated candles. Candles start almost half of home decoration fires. Keep combustibles at least three feet from heat sources. A heat source that was too close to the decoration was a factor in half of home fires that began with decorations.
6. Protect cords from damage. To avoid shock or fire hazards, cords should never be pinched by furniture, forced into small spaces such as doors or windows, placed under rugs, located near heat sources, or attached by nails or staples.
7. Check decorations for certification label. Decorations not bearing a label from an Independent testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) have not been tested for safety and could be hazardous.
8. Stay in the kitchen when something is cooking. Unattended cooking equipment is the leading cause of home cooking fires.
9. Turn off, and unplug all decorations when going to sleep or leaving the house.
10. Extinguish candles. Unattended candles are the cause of one in five home candle fires. Half of home fire deaths occur between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.