Holiday Safety
Holiday Safety Tips
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. You’ve got parties, decorations and shopping on your mind—but that’s all the more reason to be aware and keep alert of any potential dangers. Use these expert tips and precautions as a guideline and spread the spirit of safety this holiday season.

Know the dangers of holiday decorations

- The National Fire Protection Association recommends that if you’re going with a live tree, get it fresh. An old tree with dry needles is a fire hazard. And if it’s an artificial tree, make sure it’s fire-retardant. Set up the tree in a sturdy tree stand and keep it clear of the fireplace, radiator, heater or any other heat sources. Also, make sure it’s not in the way of traffic or blocking any doorways.

- Check your string of lights before you use them. The United States Fire Administration advises all holiday lights should be inspected (even if they’re new) for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Make sure you don’t overload your electrical outlets. And periodically check your wires, making sure they aren’t warm to the touch. Turn off your lights whenever you leave the house unattended.

- Breakable ornaments, small trimmings and sharp hooks can be extremely dangerous when there are kids and pets in the home. Keep an eye out for small objects, items with removable pieces, candy or anything that can be swallowed and choked on. When wrapping presents, keep track of your tape, scissors and ribbons, and put them away when you’re done using them.

Get responsible at get-togethers

- Whether you’ve got people over or you’re out and about visiting others, make sure children are always supervised. If the place you’re visiting isn’t child-proofed, be aware of the potential danger spots and watch the children closely. Make sure pets are in a safe area so they can’t slip out of the house, be stepped on or find a way to get to items they can easily choke on or swallow.

- Where there’s a party, there’s food. And you can never be too careful when it comes to food safety. Keep food covered, your hands washed and hot foods and liquids out of the reach of children. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recommends these 4 food storage rules:

1. The Chill Factor – Refrigerate perishables within 2 hours of purchase or preparation, or within one hour if the temperature is above 90° F.
2. The Thaw Law – Never defrost food at room temperature. Use the refrigerator instead. If you’re planning to cool right away, use the microwave or submerge food in cold water using an airtight container.
3. Divide and Conquer – Split up large amount of leftovers into smaller, more shallow containers.
4. Avoid the Pack Attack – Don’t over-stuff the refrigerator. Keep food safe by allowing cold air to circulate.

And just in case, keep emergency numbers on hand. To reach the poison center that serves your area, contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222.

- Always designate a driver when attending an event or party that involves alcohol. If alcoholic beverages are served, party hosts should cut off serving alcohol well before the party’s over. They should also have plenty of coffee available and be able to offer a place for guests to sleep. And remember, even sleepy drivers can present a dangerous risk on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year." To minimize the danger of falling asleep at the wheel, designated drivers should make sure they are well rested. If you really need to get home, drivers should call a cab.

Be on the lookout when shopping

- Try to shop in pairs. Avoid parking the car in dark, isolated areas. Be suspicious of strangers that come up to you for no reason. They may be trying to distract you in order to take your purse, packages or other belongings.

- Make purchases with a check or credit card, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. When you hand your card over to the salesperson, never let the card out of your sight. When you get home, keep a record of purchases you’ve made on your card, and check them against your monthly statement.

- Keep an eye out for identity theft. Monitor your credit reports on a regular basis and look for unauthorized activity or new accounts that have been opened in your name without your knowledge. According to the Federal Trade Commission, if your identity has been stolen contact the fraud department at one of the major credit bureaus: Equifax (1-888-766-0008), Experian (1-888-397-3742) or TransUnion (1-800-680-7289). The bureau will place a fraud alert on your file and notify the other two bureaus of the alert.