CITYWIDE — The holiday season is a time for joy. Nobody wants to get burned — literally and figuratively.
Whether it’s a Christmas tree that catches on fire because of a bad bulb or a new laptop lifted from the back seat of your car by an opportunistic thief, public safety officials have some tips that will help you stay safe and protect your prized possessions.
“The Santa Monica Police Department asks that all shoppers maintain their personal safety by being aware of their surroundings, while keeping their personal belongings secure,” said SMPD Sgt. Richard Lewis.
Don’t let crooks play Scrooge
The holiday shopping season offers thieves plenty of opportunities to strike. Protect yourself by following these simple tips provided by the Santa Monica Police Department.
• Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you shop at night, ask a friend to accompany you.
• Do not wear expensive jewelry.
• Keep your purse closed and do not leave your wallet or checkbook visible.
• If you carry a purse, wear the strap so that it crosses in front of your body. Or hold it in front of you, keeping the flap against your body. Secure your purse between your body and your arm.
• Carry your wallet in an inside front pocket.
• Carry your keys in your pocket; you’ll be able to drive home if your purse is lost or stolen.
• Avoid carrying a lot of cash; take only the credit cards you plan to use.
• Avoid overloading yourself with packages.
• Do not leave your belongings and purchases unattended.
• Don’t advertise your purchases. Place all valuables/purchases in the trunk of your car.
• Keep a list of credit card agencies with their phone numbers in case you have to report a stolen or lost card.
• If you have to use an ATM, protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from those standing around or behind you.
• Shopping with kids? Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.
• Park in well-lit areas and always be aware of your surroundings.
“Do not make several trips to your vehicle to place shopping bags in the truck, as this provides a suspect with a perfect target,” Lewis said. “If you find it absolutely necessary to secure packages in a trunk and then continue shopping, consider moving your vehicle at the same time.”
Taking a trip
If you plan on traveling to visit relatives or friends, you’ll want to take these steps to protect your home while you are away.
• Make sure that all doors and windows are locked.
• Draw your curtains, blinds, or drapes.
• Get an automatic timer for your lights.
• Alert your immediate neighbors that you will be gone, and for how long.
• Ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail and any other items that might be delivered to your porch or front door step.
In your home
For those families that celebrate Hanukkah by lighting candles on a menorah, the Santa Monica Fire Department wants to remind them that while candles may be pretty to look at, they can be dangerous — even deadly. On average, a candle fire in the home is reported to a U.S. fire department every 40 minutes.
Fire fighters want people to always blow out candles when they leave a room or go to bed. Also, avoid using candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep. More than one-third of home candle fires started in the bedroom, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn. More than half of all candle fires start when things that can burn are too close to the candle.
Also, never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle, and keep matches and lighters up high and out of children’s reach, in a locked cabinet.
If you must burn candles, make sure that you:
• Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip easily. So if you have an old menorah sitting in the attic, you might want to give it a thorough inspection.
• Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
• Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
• Don’t burn candles all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
• Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
When it comes to fire safety and Christmas trees, it all begins at the lot. When picking a tree go for those that have fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
Before placing the tree in its stand, cut 1 to 2 inches from the base of the trunk so that it can suck up enough water. Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. A heat source too close to a tree causes one in every five fires.
Also make sure that the tree is not blocking any exits and that you water it daily. You don’t want it to dry out. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or the garage, or placed outside against the home.
When decorating, use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs of screw-in bulbs. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect. One of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.
Never use lit candles to decorate the tree. And always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
Getting rid of it
When it’s time to dispose of your tree consider recycling it at one of several sites run by the city of Santa Monica. The trees are recycled into mulch free of charge. For more information, call the Resource Recovery & Recycling Division at (310) 458-2223.