Staying Safe During the Holiday Season

Author: Alecia Pirulis

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It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday season – there are decorations to put up, parties to plan, gifts to buy, and places to go. But don’t be the person who strolls down the middle of a crowded parking lot, carrying dozens of packages, chatting on the cell phone, and not paying attention. Or the person balancing on the edge of an unstable ladder or chair while hanging ornaments. It’s the season of joy and togetherness – keep it that way by taking a few safety precautions. Here are some suggestions for staying safe – both while you are out and in your apartment:

When you are headed for a crowded location – such as the mall during the last two weeks before Christmas – choose your purse carefully. Take one that you can wear across from your shoulder to your opposite side, or choose one with a very short strap that you can tuck under your arm. Another option is to use a small coin purse with a long strap – wear it across your body and put a sweater on over it. The best solution? Don’t carry a purse at all. Use a money belt or a fanny pack (no, it isn’t stylish, and yes, you will look like a tourist at a theme park, but hey – safety first). Don’t choose a backpack-style purse or let your purse dangle freely from your shoulder. Guys should keep their wallet in their front pocket – never the back.

Be careful at the ATM. Pay attention to your surroundings, have your card in your hand, cover the keypad when you type in your code, and take your receipt. If you must use the ATM at night, choose one in a well-lit location.

If you do a lot of shopping online, watch out for potential scams – especially during the holidays. Bogus e-mails asking for confirmation for a very expensive purchase you didn’t make, requests to update your account via an e-mail link, viruses sent as downloadable pictures, and online frauds are all things to watch out for this time of year.

Be vigilant, even at home. Remember to lock your doors and windows when you leave your apartment. If you don’t know your neighbors, get to know them. Invite them over and organize a neighborhood watch – even if your apartment complex is gated and has its own security, neighbors watching out for each other will give you an even greater sense of security and community.

Every year, more people are rushed to emergency rooms during the holidays than any other time of the year. They fall off ladders while decorating, cut themselves while preparing holiday meals, and stress themselves right into panic attacks or hypertension. If you must stand on a ladder or chair to put the star on top of the tree, have a spotter – your roommate or a friend holding the chair or ladder steady can make all the difference. Pay attention while in the kitchen and don’t rush – that’s when you are more likely to injure yourself.

Cooking the holiday meal in your apartment? Bake the turkey — don’t deep-fry it. Speaking of kitchen dangers, read up on food safety and common kitchen mistakes – especially if you plan on having everyone over for Christmas dinner.

Keep those branches lovely – and well-watered. Real trees that aren’t watered regularly can dry out and cause a fire. Candles left burning are also a fire hazard. Check your light strands carefully for frayed wires, be sure to turn the lights off when you leave home or go to bed, and never set candles near the tree.

Watch out for recalled and dangerous toys. If you have a little one, check the recall list before letting him play with his new toys. Many toys, such as those containing small parts with magnets, can cause serious injury. Inexpensive toy jewelry and painted toys could contain lead. If you suspect a toy might contain lead, return it and get something you are more comfortable with.

Traveling over the bridge and through the woods to Grandma’s house? A few precautions may be in order. If you are planning a car trip, be sure to have a thermal blanket and a gallon of water in the trunk – just in case. Also, an emergency kit, jumper cables, and a flashlight could come in handy, especially in snowy or icy conditions. Make sure everyone wears a seatbelt, and keep your cell phone fully charged and handy (but don’t use it while driving!). Drinking and driving spikes during the holidays – watch out for anyone weaving on the road or driving erratically. And before leaving for a party, have a plan – assign a designated driver or arrange for a cab to pick you up.

Common sense and awareness can go a long way – stay safe and enjoy the festivities!