Holiday Safety: Don't Take Risks During the Season of Giving


As the Christmas season rapidly approaches and we anticipate the joy of celebrating the season with family and friends, we should remember to take extra care in our preparations for and enjoyment of the Holidays. A number of actions we participate in during the season from decorating and shopping to eating and celebrating carry inherent risk of injury, illness or material loss that can be controlled with a few common sense precautions.

I’d like to offer the following safety precautions to help make your holiday preparations and celebrations as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Shopping- “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

You carry lots of money and presents and you are not paying attention. Did I mention that this is also the criminals’ favorite holiday? Here are some things you can do to make their holiday a little less rewarding:

  • Do as much of your shopping and bank/ATM business as possible during daylight hours.  When you must shop at night, park as close as possible to the store/ mall entrance and pedestrian walkways in well lighted portions of the parking lot.
  • Shop with a friend or family member so you are not out alone. There is safety in numbers.
  • Be alert and mindful of where you are and who is around you.
  • Roll up windows and lock doors when you leave your vehicle. Store purchases in the trunk or hidden under a blanket or tarp if stored in the passenger compartment.
  • Use a cart if you have too many packages or too large a package to safely carry from store to vehicle. You should also keep your hands free and your head up and looking around so you don’t look like an easy target for criminal activity.
  • Don’t wear expensive jewelry and don’t carry purses or wallets in back pants pockets when Christmas shopping. If possible, make your purchases with checks or credit cards instead of cash (which can attract the attention of criminals).
  • Have your car keys in your hand and ready when approaching your car. If you have a remote door key with an alarm/ panic button, have it ready to activate if you are suddenly confronted by a stranger.
  • Keep a grip on small children to keep from becoming separated from them.

Decorating the Home- “Oh Christmas Tree”

Let’s see- lots of sources of ignition (candles, fireplaces, temporary heaters, electrical lights and extension cords) and plenty of combustibles have the potential for a hazardous holiday. Here are some tips to decorate safely:

  • If you are planning to use an artificial Christmas tree this year, look to purchase one that has a “Fire Resistant” label on it.
  • If you are electing to purchase a cut tree, look for a fresh tree (green needles that are hard to pull off and fresh, sticky sap at the cut) and provide a fresh cut as soon as you get the tree home.
  • Keep all cut and live trees well watered at all times. Never let the water reservoir go dry.
  • Place the tree (artificial or real) in a location away from the fireplace, heaters or heat vents, electrical appliances or candles/ open flames.
  • Check light strings for frayed insulation, broken bulbs or loose connections.
  • Connect no more than 3 light strings together into a singles electrical outlet.
  • Do not use light strings or electrical decorations on metallic trees.
  • Avoid using sharp or easily breakable decorations or small ornaments that can be easily swallowed in homes with small children.
  • Burn candles and fireplaces only when supervised by a responsible (and sober) adult. Keep wrapping paper, decorations, drapes and other combustibles away from candles and fires and never leave the room for any length of time or go to bed with candles or the fireplace burning.
  • Keep holiday plants such as mistletoe, holly, poinsettias and Christmas cactus out of reach of small children and pets as many of these plants can be quite poisonous.
  • When decorating outdoors, use only lights labeled for outdoor use and only connect them to GFCI electrical outlets.
  • Turn all electrical lights (interior or exterior) off before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Putting up exterior lighting and decorations requires a whole safety manual in itself. My advice? If decorating requires lots of ladder and rooftop work, contract the job.

Safety While Traveling- “I’ll be Home for Christmas”

Traveling during the Holidays can be a test of our nerves. The roads are crowded and many of the drivers are not frequent travelers. Add snowy, icy travel conditions and some inebriated and distracted drivers and the trip becomes a real ordeal.

  • Travel during daylight hours whenever possible.
  • Travel during dry conditions when possible. Avoid planning a trip when snow, sleet, ice or freezing rain is expected. If you must drive in inclement weather, reduce your speed accordingly and increase the following distance behind other vehicles.
  • Do a pre-trip inspection of the vehicle. Make sure it has property inflated tires with adequate tire tread, good working windshield wipers, working lights, a functioning horn and enough gasoline in the tank to get you to your destination or a filling station during daylight hours.
  • Remember to carry a charged wireless phone with you when traveling to use in event of emergencies.