As the holiday season continues on, safety during the holiday season is a top priority for many families. In order to keep safe and to make sure holiday plans do not have to be delayed, there are somethings that people can do now to prepare for later.
Here are tips for keeping things safe and secure around the house.
“Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the most prevalent days of the year for cooking fires in the home,” said Grayson County Fire Marshal John Weda.
Holiday meals mean ovens may be on for hours at a time, but Weda said its important never to leave the house while one’s running. Fryers also pose a potential danger, so Weda recommended that they be used outside, on a concrete surface and kept at least 10 feet away from any structures or overhangs. Turkeys and other meats destined for the fryer must also be fully thawed and not cause the oil to overflow once added.
And if a grease or oil fire breaks out, Weda said never use water to try and douse the flames.
“”If you try that, all you’re going to do is end up making it larger and spread it around,” Weda said. “All you have to do is turn the heat off and then put a lid on top of that fire. Let it cool down, then take the pan outside, before removing the lid.”
Home-heating systems should be checked by a professional each year before using, but space heaters especially should be handled with caution.
“We always advise that people follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to use one that has a tip-over, shut-off switch,” Weda said. “Keep it at least three feet away from any bedding materials or combustibles. Plug it directly int the wall, not an extension cord, and try not leave it on all night or unattended.”
Fireplaces and outdoor burning
Grayson County has already seen a number of chimney-related fires this year, so Weda said it’s important to be sure that they’re free of flammable creosote buildup and used with the proper kindling.
“Make sure your flume is open and have a your fireplace checked once a year by a certified chimney sweep,” Weda said. “Burn the right type of woods, like hard wood and oak woods. Make sure they’re not green and they’re dry.”
Outdoor burning of trash and brush is permitted in the county, but Weda encouraged rural residents to refrain from doing so as much as possible during the late fall and winter months. Sub-freezing temperatures leave behind dead and dry vegetation, further elevating the risk of fast-moving grass fires.
“If you’re going to burn, please be aware of the weather,” Weda said. “Watch it and make sure the winds aren’t going to be blowing. If there’s even a little bit of wind, that fire can get going and get away from you in a hurry.”
“The most dangerous Christmas tree, is one that’s dried out or dead,” Weda said. “Buy them green and keep the base full of water. Use UL-certified lights and don’t leave them on all night long. Turn the lights off whenever you leave the room or head to bed. And be sure to keep open-flame candles well away from your tree.”
Many people travel during the holidays, so Denison Police Lt. Mike Eppler said it’s important to lock up things around the house before hitting the road.
“Make sure that all the doors and Windows are secured and have a neighbor or someone you trust make periodic checks on the house,” Eppler said. “If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, have your mail stopped. Papers in the yard and overflowing mailboxes all show that you’re not home.”
Residents planning to go out of town are also encouraged to notify their local police department. Many offer vacation house checks that are conducted on routine patrols and upon special requests.
“For our department, that gives us specific information on when you’re going to be gone, when you’ll be back and a contact we can call in case there is something wrong at the house,” Eppler said. “An officer will actually get out there every other day and walk the property.”
Porch pirates and burglars
While it may be the season of giving, some see the holidays as an opportunity to take. Delivered packages are a tempting target for thieves, so it’s best to schedule drop-offs at a time when someone will be available to accept them.
“If you can’t be there, have someone like a neighbor or a friend pick it up for you and get it out of sight,” Eppler said. “And, of course, if you see suspicious activity in the area or someone going from porch to porch, we highly encourage people to call us.”
But even after a gift is safely received, Eppler said its important to keep the packaging hidden from prying eyes.
“Don’t leave gift boxes outside to show what’s now inside your home,” Eppler said. “Break the boxes down and put them in the trash or the recycling. If you don’t, and you put them outside, it basically lets the bad guys go window shopping and know what’s there for the taking.”
Family gatherings can be both joyful and stressful, but Eppler said relatives can keep the peace simply by giving each other a little space, when necessary.
“Some members of the family know how to push others’ buttons, so if you see a problem coming, just separate yourself from the situation,” Eppler said. “Go into another room, go outside or go for a walk. The best option is to get away from each other until things cool down.”