Don#8217;t become a holiday statistic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 6, 2005

The days until Christmas are winding down and the shopping frenzy is going full tilt.

According to Sheriff Edward Webb this is not only a joyous time, but also a time when thefts are on the rise.

It is also the time when candles and an abundance of tiny Christmas lights lend their glow to the beauty of the holiday. That means more of an opportunity for holiday fires, but not the type that warm us as we enjoy cozy seats in front of the fireplace.

Gates Fire Chief W.F. “Fred” Collier suggested that since we are all buying batteries for all those holiday toys and gifts, it is a good time to also install fresh batteries in smoke alarms. He reminds us that a smoke alarm can be the crucial difference between life and death should a fire break out in your home.

Using candles to remind us of the birth of Jesus Christ dates back to ancient times. Now, candles are used in most homes, but according to the National Fire Protection, eight percent of December fires are due to improper handling.

Also, candles were the cause of an estimated average of 310 reported U.S home structure fires per year during the time frame of 1999-2002. On average, one in every 22 reported fires involving a

Christmas tree resulted in a death.

As Collier said, however, everyone can enjoy a safe and fire free holiday season with just a few simple precautions.

His suggestions include making sure the Christmas tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Additionally, those cords should be inspected each year to make sure there are no frayed spots where a spark could turn your tree into a flaming tower.

Sheriff Webb offered several tips for safe shopping this holiday season, the first of which is be alert at all times. It is too easy as we race from sale to sale to forget about personal safety and that could put a shopper in a position to become a holiday statistic.

One action I have frequently observed in women shoppers especially is their careless handling of purses. Don’t leave your purse in your car or unattended. Lock it in the trunk, out of sight. Don’t hang it on the back of restroom doors and it is a good idea to carry your keys separate from your purse in case your purse is lost or stolen.

As easy as it is to forget personal safety while racing from store to store, it is just as easy to insure that no one picks your pocket, steals your packages or causes you personal injury.

Keeping your home fires safely burning in the fireplace is also a simple matter if we just follow Chief Collier’s safety tips.

All these suggestions were given by men in positions to know the devastating results of failure to observe and practice just a few simple safety measures.

As Sheriff Webb said, he and his deputies don’t want to diminish our holiday spirit, but it is vital to remember your personal safety. As you go through the holidays, enjoy every moment, but it would be advisable to heed the advice of both the sheriff and the fire chief.