Keep safety in mind during holidays

December comprises several holidays that usually fill community members' calendars with many activities. But between shopping, decorating and traveling, security and safety precautions should not be ignored in the chaos, warn local officials.
Community Police and Crime Prevention Supervisor Peggy Contreras said shoppers should remain on high alert when braving busy malls and retail stores. She said appealing sales and big crowds provide distractions, making buyers easy targets for thieves and attackers.
When shopping, Contreras said individuals should keep credit cards and cash in their pockets, not purses, because loose bags are easier for shoplifters to pick through or steal. She also recommends carrying only necessary credit cards to avoid having a handful disappear.
Parents should consider finding alternative supervision and leave little ones at home, Contreras noted. Children can easily go missing in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds or be abducted. If youngsters must tag along, parents should carefully monitor them.
"Be aware of keeping kids in your sight," she said. "Put them in a buggy, or if possible, take someone with you to help you control the situation."
The dangers don't end once consumers pay cashiers. Contreras said people should have car keys in hand before exiting buildings and never wander into parking lots without other people around. If people feel uncomfortable while walking toward their cars, Contreras advises setting off car panic alarms to draw attention and scare away potential attackers. Shoppers should cover packages already obtained with a towel or jacket or conceal them in car trunks to deter thieves if they plan on traveling to multiple stores.
Sharing festive holiday spirits also often involves decking the halls with bright lights and decorations. Picerne Military Housing Communications Manager Amanda Filipowski said recent neighborhood newsletters advised on-post residents to check house and Christmas tree lights for Underwriters Laboratories seals and inspect for broken bulbs or frayed wires. Picerne regulations also prohibit dwellers from installing roof decorations.
Contreras said ensuring Christmas trees are not located near heater vents prevents brittle limbs and potential fires. She also asks consumers to consider using electric or battery-operated candles instead of lit ones and ensure extension cords are not overloaded.
When traveling, both on and off-post residents should ask neighbors to collect mail and newspapers and use light timers to makes houses look lived in, according to Directorate of Public Safety Operations Officer Maj. Jay Massey. He also noted doors and windows should be locked at all times and residents must ensure all valuables are stowed away.
Massey also said post Military Police offer free quarters checks by request. Police visit houses daily, checking doors, windows and screens for signs of forced entry. Residents may call 255-2222 to request this service.
When hitting the road, Contreras stresses preparing for trips. She said motorists should have plenty of rest before traveling so they remain alert.
Contreras recommends people check vehicle tires, wiper blades, lights, horns and other equipment. She noted the Automotive Skills Center offers free vehicle checks by calling 255-9725.
Preparing for inclement weather is a must, said Robert Saliewicz, Aviation Branch Safety Office safety and occupational health specialist. Motorists should anticipate rain, snow and ice, and slow down if roads become slick.
"We want people to come back (home)," Saliewicz said. "We want them to do things safely and enjoy themselves without being injured."
Following safety precautions this winter season doesn't take much time or cause significant inconveniences, but can preempt serious injuries or loss.

Page last updated Thu December 10th, 2009 at 15:57