Take Precautions To Protect Home, Presents

December 17, 2018 GMT

The holidays can be a magical time of the year, but people need to take precautions to keep their homes, packages and presents safe, firefighters and police say.

“In modern homes, some of our most cherished holiday traditions can pose significant fire risks,” State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego said in a release this week regarding fire prevention tips and holiday safety. “Home decoration fires are surprisingly common.”

Hazleton Fire Chief Donald Leshko suggests keeping live Christmas trees well watered. Real trees need to be watered every day, and sometimes twice a day, he said. They should also be kept away from any heat sources, he said.

People also need to make sure their Christmas light sets are in good working order and don’t have frayed wires or missing bulbs, Leshko said. People may think that a set with a missing bulb won’t hurt, but that socket is still producing electricity, he said. Lights used outside should also be inspected and rated for use outside, Leshko said.

People need to avoid overloading electrical outlets and circuits, too, he said. Most light sets recommend no more than three sets be connected together, Leshko said, and people should follow the directions.

“Everyone loves to decorate for the season,” he said. “Use good common sense. Unplug the tree and outside lights at night. Never go to bed with the lights on.”

Also, use the right extension cords when hooking up holiday lights, Leshko said. Extension cords used outside should be waterproof, and Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved for that use, he said.

Freeland Fire Chief Joe Stepansky advises people working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. Occupants have as little as two minutes to safely exit a home from the moment a smoke alarm sounds, Trego said.

Stepansky also suggests using extreme caution when burning candles inside the home, and make sure they’re not on surface that could catch fire. Sugarloaf Fire Chief Duane Hildebrand agrees, also advises caution with bayberry candles burned for luck on New Years, he said.

Candles should also be kept away from decorations, such a fake snow, or placed in a container that could get hot, Leshko said. Candles should not be left burning when not home or sleeping, he said. People may say that they’re just running out for a minute, but that’s when something can happen, he said.

Other decorations should be kept away from hot lamps or bulbs, as they could catch fire, Stepansky said. He suggested that people call their local fire station, if they have an questions as firefighters will be happy to resolve any issues and prevent a holiday tragedy.

Both Stepansky and Leshko warned about using space heaters, as the colder weather settles in. They should be used in an open area, away from flammable material and plugged directly into an outlet. Extension cords should not be used with space heaters.

“We want everyone to have a safe and merry Christmas,” Leshko said.

Area police also offered tips on keeping packages and presents safe during the holidays. When shopping, people should keep packages and bags in the trunk, out of a would-be thief’s sight, state police Trooper 1st Class David Peters said. At home, presents should be kept out of sight of the windows, again, away from prying eyes, he said.

As for home delivery of packages, Peters suggests arranging for an alternate pickup location, such as a shipping store or work, if the recipient won’t be home when the package is arriving. People could also ask a neighbor to retrieve the package until they arrive home, he said.

East Union Twp. police Chief T.J. Rentschler suggested tracking the packages to know when it is arriving, or using a package locker, in which a package can be hidden inside what looks like a lawn ornament. Small packages can locked inside a stand alone mailbox, found in some developments, he said.

People can also leave a radio or lights on inside the home to give the appearance of someone being home, or require a signature upon delivery to make sure the package isn’t left on a porch, Rentschler said.

People can also invest in a camera system for their home, although this could be expensive, he said. Peters also suggested something like, the Ring doorbell, which a doorbell with a camera linked to a smartphone app, he said.

Contact the writer: kmonitz@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3589.