Author: Kirsten Barber
As the year comes to an end and we celebrate the holidays with family, it is important not to let our guard down around our homes, while driving and even online. The NC Department of Public Safety shares these safety tips to help you protect yourself and those around you during the holiday season.
1. Prepare your home for winter weather
On the first day of safety, we recommend taking the following steps to winterize your home in preparation for the cold days – and potential winter weather – ahead.
- Keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping.
- Have your chimney inspected if you plan to use your fire place.
- Learn how to keep pipes from freezing.
- Clean out gutters.
- Cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a winter storm.
- Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.
Additional winter weather safety information can be found at ReadyNC.gov.
2. Be aware when shopping in stores or online
A reminder on the second day of safety to stay alert while shopping. Scammers and thieves like to take advantage of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and try to catch unwitting shoppers who have their guard down. Here are a few tips that will help keep you, your valuables and your bank accounts safe however you choose to shop in this holiday season.
- Always park in well-lit areas. Place shopping bags out of sight or in the trunk, if possible.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Only bring credit cards you plan to use.
- Check your bank statements regularly during the season to spot suspicious activity.
- Do your online shopping at home, and make sure your home wireless network is protected
- Use caution when making purchases online. Only shop on sites that will securely process your payment (these sites are identified with a URL that starts with https).
Don’t forget to trust your gut instinct. If something seems suspicious, it most likely is. Additional holiday shopping tips can be found here.
3. Inspect holiday decor
Be fire smart as you deck the halls this season. On the third day of safety, prevent home fires by ensuring holiday décor is not only safe to use, but displayed properly.
- Dispose of any string lights that are broken or have frayed wiring.
- Keep your natural Christmas tree watered. A dry tree is more flammable.
- Turn your holiday lights off before leaving home or going to bed.
- Use battery powered candles in holiday decor. Nearly 60% of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle. If you must use a real candle, keep them 12 inches away from things that can burn.
- Check smoke alarms to ensure they are working properly.
4. Travel Safely
On the fourth day of safety, we encourage you to prepare for holiday travel in advance, whether you plan to travel down the road or your destination is miles away. Having a plan before you leave can reduce stress should you encounter a hiccup like heavy traffic, severe weather or vehicle trouble.
- Wear your seatbelt – it’s the law.
- Allow extra time to get to your destination.
- Avoid crowded roads by starting as early as possible. Traffic picks up on the highways the day before a holiday and continues through the weekend.
- Check the weather in your town, your destination and points along the way.
- Let the people you are visiting know your route and your expected time of arrival.
- Don't speed. The leading cause of collisions in North Carolina is speed.
More holiday travel tips can be found here.
5. Designate a sober driver
Do not drink and drive! A special holiday greeting goes out to the designated sober drivers on the fifth day of safety. During holiday festivities, if you decide to consume alcohol, do so safely at home, or use a designated driver or ride share service once the celebration is over. Motorists can report safety hazards, including suspected drunken drivers, to the NC State Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (*47) toll free.
6. Have your winter weather car kit ready!
On the sixth day of safety, we’re sharing our list of the ideal winter car emergency kit.
- Jumper cables
- Flares or reflective triangle
- Ice scraper
- Car cell phone charger
- Cat litter or sand (for better tire traction)
Pack other items depending on the unique needs of members of your family. If your area is experiencing severe weather, it is best to stay off the roads unless it is absolutely necessary for you to drive.
7. Reduce your risk of home fires while in the kitchen
Cooking is the main cause of home fires every year, so on the seventh day of safety we’re sharing our top safety tips to keep in mind while whipping up your holiday feast.
- Monitor any items that are cooking in the kitchen. Never leave the stove unattended.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so no one can bump them or pull them over.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the oven and keep the door closed until it’s cool.
- Keep a fire extinguisher close by.
Before hosting guests, it is always a good idea to check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are working properly.
8. Keep children and pets safe
On the eighth day of safety, we’re sharing tips on how to keep children and pets safe.
- Keep holiday plants away from your children and pets. Mistletoe, holly berries and Jerusalem cherries can be poisonous if consumed in large amounts. (kids and pets)
- Small button batteries and magnets found in toys are VERY dangerous if swallowed. (kids and pets)
- Get safety gear, including helmets, for scooters and other riding toys–and make sure that children use them every time.
- Once the gifts are open, immediately discard plastic wrappings or other packaging on toys before they become dangerous playthings or choking hazards.
The holidays are a great time to discuss the family’s emergency plan while everyone is together. Take some time to refresh everyone on the emergency meeting place and communication plan. If updates need to be made, make sure everyone is aware. Tips on emergency planning can be found at ReadyNC.gov.
9. Protect your home while you are away
On the ninth day of safety, we recommend taking these steps when leaving your home for an extended amount of time.
- Stop deliveries - Piles of newspapers in the driveway or an overflowing mailbox is a sure sign no one is home. Stop deliveries and mail while you are away.
- Make your home look occupied - Utilize smart home devices to schedule your lights to turn on when you are not at home. You can also use them to turn on a TV or to play music.
- Lock up – Check that doors and windows are locked before leaving.
- Social Media Safety - While away on vacations or extended periods of time, limit postings on social media of your absence. You may want to avoid “check- ins” or wait until your return before posting photos from your trip.
- Schedule security checks - Contact your local police department or sheriff’s office. Many offer a home security check program for residents who may be away from their homes for extended periods of time. Asking a trusted neighbor to check in on your home can also put your mind at ease.
- Keep new purchases out of plain view - The holiday season brings new goodies to your home. Don’t bring attention to new purchases by placing them near windows and inviting intruders. Also, try to break boxes down to fit into recycling bins.
10. Stay safe during power outages
Winter weather can cause power outages. Know what to do if the power goes out with these safety tips on the tenth day of safety!
- Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.
- Use a generator, but ONLY outdoors and away from windows. If you’re running a portable generator, you need to have a working carbon monoxide alarm in your home.
- Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
- Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
- Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
- Have an emergency kit ready with essential supplies for each member of your family.
11. Be wise on social media
Sharing holiday memories online with family and friends can be fun, but it can also tip off bad guys on when you are away from home or if you received a pricey item as a gift. On the eleventh day of safety, we’re sharing our top social media safety tips for the season.
- Avoid geotagging your location.
- Never reveal your address. If you do decide to share a photo on your property, make sure that no identification markers such as street signs, house numbers, or unique decorations or architectural elements are present in the photo.
- Wait until you are back home to post vacation photos.
- Refrain from showing off valuables.
- Double check privacy settings and scroll through your friend list. Make sure only people you really trust can see your activity.
12. Check in on neighbors
The holidays, while typically a time of joy and hope, can sometimes bring sadness and longing to those who have experienced loss or are away from their loved ones. Check in on your neighbors in one of these ways on the twelfth day of safety.
- Make sure your neighbor has an emergency kit if severe weather is in the forecast.
- Have discussions with neighbors on what went well or what you are celebrating this year.
- Make a plan to check on neighbors if extreme cold or winter weather knocks out your power.
- Shoveling snow can be a health risk, so remember to take it easy and watch out for others.
Preparation can be a community effort! Show you care by helping others prepare.