Holiday Season Safety Tips
It's wise to do some research on a website before you purchase something and hand over your credit card information. Log on to the company website yourself - do not enter through an emailed link. It is a good idea to check the Better Business Bureau to see if they have had any complaints about the company. Look for a padlock icon in the upper right corner of any page asking for your credit card information to indicate it is secure.
Shopping in Person
Try not to take your eyes off your debit or credit card when someone else is handling it. Make sure store employees only swipe your card once. Keep watch of your personal belongings at all times - don't leave your purse unattended. If you must store your purchases in your car, make sure they're in the trunk and that your trunk opener inside your car is deactivated. Again, if you must use your car to go shopping, park somewhere well lit and don't leave valuables where they can be seen.
Whether you're a guest or a host, you need to have a plan to prevent drinking and driving. Remember that it's not always easy to tell if someone is over the legal limit to safely drive, and the only thing that can sober someone up is time. Determine who the designated drivers in your group will be or have a plan to take public transit or taxis ahead of time as a host, consider limiting your own drinking so you can be more aware of how much your guests are drinking. if you believe one of your friends is too drunk to drive, ask them for their keys and call them a cab; alternatively, you can stay with them until they are sober or offer them a spare bed for the night. If you are unable to stop someone who shouldn't be driving, you will need to call the police - it may be difficult to do when it's a friend, but the potential for serious or deadly harm to your friend and others is a very real possibility if they get behind the wheel.
Decking the Halls
If your Christmas tree is visible from the outside, consider not placing gifts under the tree until the last minute. If you have pets, they may be attracted to ribbons and parcels and they could pose a choking hazard. Once the presents have been unwrapped, consider taking boxes for things such as computers, electronics and televisions straight to recycling yourself - no need to alert a thief what new toys Santa brought you by leaving the boxes outside your home.
Travelling by Car
This time of year the roads can become slippery and you may encounter black ice. Have directions and check road conditions before you set out - Weather Network. Always wear a seatbelt. Stick to well-travelled roads when possible and take a cell phone and car charger for emergencies. Ensure your car is in good mechanical condition and that you have appropriate tires for the road conditions you may encounter. Have the correct car seats for children and make sure they are installed properly. Keep an emergency kit and blankets in your trunk. If you need to use your GPS or your cell phone, pull over to the side of the road when it's safe to do so. Advise someone of your travel route and the times you plan to leave home and arrive at your destination.
If your holiday plans include travel elsewhere, you will want to take steps to protect your home and its belongings while you are away. Have a friend or neighbor visit your home often to check on things. It is a good idea to invest in a timer for your lights. Cancel your newspaper and arrange for your mail to be brought inside every day. You may be excited about your big trip, but it's not wise to advertise your plans in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Lastly, holiday safety tips wouldn't be complete without some fire prevention advice. If you have a fresh-cut Christmas tree, make sure to water it regularly to help it retain it's moisture; if you purchase an artificial tree, make sure that it is fire retardant. Be cautious on a ladder when installing and removing your Christmas lights and inspect your lights for excessive wear before you install them; if you have any doubt about the age and safety of your strand of lights, it’s probably time to get new ones - be power smart and purchase energy efficient LED lights. Use only approved CSA and UL tested extension cords and power bars for all your electrical needs. Keep all flammable items at least three feet from your space heaters and ensure your heaters are CSA or UL approved. Kitchen fires are a major concern at this time of year; don’t leave pots unattended on the stove and be extremely cautious when cooking with oil. Have and learn how to use a fire extinguisher - the Vancouver Fire Department recommends an ABC type extinguisher. Keep candles away from combustible materials and never use lighted candles on or near a Christmas tree; don’t ever leave your home or go to bed with candles burning. Working smoke alarms save lives; press the test button on your smoke alarm once a month to ensure it is working and don’t forget to change the battery once a year - if your smoke alarm is more than ten years old, it’s time to change it. Remember, smoke from a fire can hurt or kill you long before the flames ever get near you, so make a point of sleeping with your bedroom door closed.