Tips for keeping safe during the holidays

Dec. 10, 2012 @ 11:57 AM

While the excitement of the holidays can bring hours of fun, it also can bring some unwanted attention from criminals looking for a quick score.
Brian Cox, fire chief at the Guil-Rand Fire Department, has a list of tips for staying safe this holiday season.
First, he recommends keeping Christmas trees watered so they don’t become fire hazards.
“A lot of times, the hazard occurs when the needles on the tree dry out. The bulbs then get hot, or you have a short, and the tree catches on fire,” Cox said. “People also forget to make sure their extension cords are UL-tested and there are no wires showing. They should also make sure that there are no paper products around the fireplaces and logs.”
Cox also recommends animals stay clear of decorations so pets do not get a chance chew on them. Be sure to blow out candles that are burning before you leave home or go to bed, and be sure fragrance plug-ins are not plugged in while away from the house or while sleeping.
According to Cox, Christmas tree fires have gone down, but calls to a different area of the house have increased.
“We have been lucky over the past few years and have not had that many Christmas tree fires because people are aware of these issues,” Cox said. “Mainly, during Christmas times, fire calls have come from people cooking in the kitchen, or someone leaves a turkey on all night long. Anytime you’re cooking, it needs to be monitored.”
Thomasville police suggest that families avoid displaying Christmas trees and gifts in front of a window, keeping them out of sight from would-be thieves. When getting rid of presents, be sure to break down the boxes or cut them up.
“It is fine to have your tree in front of the window, but don’t put your gifts out until the night before,” said Capt. Mark Kattner. “Thieves will see them through the windows and break in to steal the stuff, which they have done in the past.”
If traveling, he recommends having neighbors or family members pick up mail and newspapers and cautions residents to refrain from posting vacation information on Facebook or Twitter. And don’t leave descriptive answering machine messages indicating that you’re out of town.
Thomasville police advise that when shopping, be aware of surroundings and strangers. Keep money and credit cards concealed, carry your purse under your arm and keep your wallet in your inside jacket pocket.
“When you are out shopping, take a minute or two to see who is hanging around,” Kattner said. “If you don’t feel safe, wait for someone and leave the store with them. Most cars now have a panic alarm on them and if something happens, you can hit that alarm.”
Officers urge residents to shop before dark, when possible, and park in well-lit areas. When going to your car, have keys readily accessible, avoid overloading yourself with boxes, and scan the interior of your car to be sure no one is inside.
cdavis@hpe.com | 888-3657