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Officials offer holiday safety tips

By Staff | Dec 20, 2008

The holiday season is a time to celebrate with friends and family, and the Cape Coral Police and Fire Departments have a few suggestions for keeping those celebrations safe.
Taking extra precautions this time of year both inside the home and out can make a significant difference in preventing emergency situations, public safety officials said.
According to CCFD Public Education Specialist Dave Webster, holiday lighting and cooking have the potential to cause fires, and using proper safety can greatly reduce that potential.
“Live (Christmas) trees should be purchased fresh; if they’re dry (residents) shouldn’t purchase them,” Webster said. “Even though those are small lights, enough of them on the tree that’s been neglected and is very dry is enough to start a fire.”
After a tree is purchased it should be cut and placed in water, and should be thrown out as soon as it begins to shed needles and becomes dry, Webster said. Trees should not be near a heat source or in a walkway.
Also, don’t overload the tree with lights, use lights meant for indoor applications and never use candles on a Christmas tree, he said.
“Candles are a very popular decoration in many homes during the holiday,” Webster said. “Placements of candles is important.”
Candles should be placed on a non-flammable surface and in a container or jar. They should be placed away from fabrics, drapes, curtains, small children and animals.
“When you leave a room and there’s a candle burning it should be extinguished,” he said. “They’ll melt down and they can cause a fire while you’re away.”
Only proper outside lighting and extension chords should be used for decorating the exterior of a home due to rain and condensation, Webster said. The lights should be plugged in according to their safety instructions, and connecting more strands than recommended can overload an outlet and cause a fire, he said.
Cooking during the holidays can be hazardous as well, especially with children and animals in the home, Webster said.
“You want to keep small children and pets out of the kitchen when you’re cooking,” he said. “Use the back burners on the stove whenever possible, and turn the handles inward on the front burners.”
Also, whether you’re cooking indoors or barbecuing outdoors, cooking foods should never be left unattended.
For outdoor cooking, don’t use too much oil and make sure meat is thawed and dry before attempting to cook it.
“Water into hot grease will cause and explosion,” Webster said. “When you submerge it into the deep fryer, it will cause an explosion and could cause significant burns to anyone who is in the area.”
Webster said a multi-class, 2A-10BC fire extinguisher should be kept in the kitchen near an exit door, and the pressure gauge checked monthly.
“The best holiday gift anyone can receive for their home is a good working fire extinguisher,” he said.
An extinguisher is relatively inexpensive– about $20 to $40 — and lasts eight to 10 years, he said.
If a fire does break out, call 911 before attempting to use a fire extinguisher so firefighters can respond more quickly if the fire cannot be contained, Webster said.
“Don’t delay our response,” he said. “If we arrive on scene and they’ve been successful, we can help them with any overhaul… and help them return their home to a livable condition. We’re more than happy to come out and glad to see you were successful with your extinguisher.”
It’s also a good idea to have a fire escape plan that family members and guests are aware of, he said.
With the hecticness of the holidays, there are safety issues with shopping, and the possibility of residents being the victims of opportunity crimes, police say.
“The big thing is to be extra-diligent in knowing your surroundings and not to multi-task,” said CCPD District Resource Coordinator Gerald Moll. “Make sure that you secure your purse, your children as far as knowing where you are, shopping carts and loading things into your car. Make sure it isn’t seen in public view if you’re continuing shopping. Use your trunk.”
Because of the possibility of holiday thefts this time of year, homeowners should use and outside lighting system, do a nightly security check of their residence and change daily driving patterns and other schedules, Moll said.
“Because of the amount of purchases made, you want to make sure that your house is buttoned up at night,” Moll said. “That will reduce your chances of being a victim of a crime considerably.”
Also, neighbors should watch out for suspicious activities in their neighborhoods, he said.
“When something doesn’t seem right, you’re not bothering the Police Department by calling,” Moll said. “We get frustrated at times when people don’t call. They might help us prevent some criminal act. We’d rather get called, and let us check it out.”
The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s marks a deadly increase in drunk driving in America, according to Florida Highway Patrol Capt. Mark Welch. Last December, 992 people were killed in crashes in the United States where a driver was above the legal drinking limit to drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“It definitely causes an increase of concern,” Moll said. “Safety on the roads is paramount. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help so you’re not exposed to that. Ask a friend, a family member…that you need a ride home. You’ll feel a heck of a lot better afterwards.”
Dec. 13-31 marks Florida law enforcement’s “Drunk Driving. Over the limit. Under Arrest” campaign, and FHP will be teaming up with hundreds of local and state law enforcement agencies to crack down on drunk driving.
FHP recommends planning to use a designated driver, calling a friend, family member or public transit if necessary and promptly reporting drunk drivers to law enforcement.