Thoughts on Home Safety and Security This Holiday Season

I commented in last week's blog about how fast the time is going as we head towards the holidays.

This is a time of year when we all have a lot of extra things to do and events to attend of one kind or another. It puts our normally hectic daily schedules into overdrive!

With so much going on, and so many tasks to perform, there's a real possibility, a danger in some cases, that your holiday preparations around the home might miss a few important safety and security measures that, if not attended to, contain the real possibility of derailing your celebrations, or even worse.

So today, I'd like to focus on a few simple tips that will hopefully help to make the season more merry and bright, simply because you'll have covered some important bases that might otherwise get overlooked.

Going away for the holidays? - Chances are you're going to be away from the home for various holiday season events, or in many cases you may be away for the entire time either on vacation or visiting relatives. Here's where it pays not to advertise your absence on your social networking pages. You're effectively telling the world that you're not around and now might be an ideal moment for some opportunist thief. This is a relatively new dimension to holiday security, but it's an important one as social networks are so incredibly effective at instantly spreading the news that no one might be at home. Consider posting your holiday shots and videos when you get home, rather than live by mobile phone. It may be less exciting and not of the moment, but it's so much better for home security purposes.

If you're going away, think about buying some light switch timers, which give the crucial impression of occupancy at night.

A trusted neighbor can be invaluable in making sure that there are tell-tale signs of no one being at home, such as newspapers being left on the front drive.

Also make sure that presents aren't stacked up near a window with no blinds or curtains drawn - this can be another totally avoidable signal to the opportunist burglar. 

Let there be light, but safely - Statistics suggest, maybe not too surprisingly, that December is the worst month of the year for electrical fires. Holiday lights have the potential to contribute to this annual problem, not least because they are quickly stored after the holidays and then usually brought out just in time to hang them on the tree and around your home and its exterior. Make sure you carry out a thorough initial inspection and maintenance, including checks for frayed power cords. It's never good practice to leave lights on all the time, so consider investing in a timing device that will switch them off before you retire each night.

Food glorious food - The holiday feast is a huge highlight at this time of year. The possible issue is, however, that it puts a lot more pressure on activities in the kitchen, so it's important not to drop your guard in the rush to get things done. Make sure you're thawing out meats in a refrigerator and not storing refrigerated foods at room temperature for unsuitable periods of time. As the big day draws ever closer, and most of all on the day itself, hot foods and liquids can present a real safety hazard to your children and pets if stored on the edges of countertops and tables etc. In fact, it's a really sensible idea to keep kids and animals out of the kitchen area as much as possible at this time.

Don't over extend! - Electrical outlets have a nasty habit of not being exactly where we need them for holiday purposes, so avoid the temptation to reach them by stringing together various extension cords. Instead buy one of sufficient length to create a single connection between the wall socket and the items requiring power, also bearing in mind the capabilities of the cord and the actual power requirements of your items.

Gift wrap can be dangerous! - As festive and harmless as it looks, gift wrap can present some real safety hazards if not correctly managed and disposed of. First and foremost, it should be collected and thrown away as soon as present opening is complete (or better still progressively during present giving). This eliminates the possibility of it fueling some kind of flash fire and presenting a choking hazard to young children and pets. Did you know, for example, that tinsel is very attractive to cats and dogs but can be fatal if swallowed! Also don't let kids rip musical greeting cards apart as they contain a small battery that can cause serious issues if ingested.

Don't toy with safety - Although they are subject to a lot of safety rules and regulations, to be totally safe toys still need to be used in accordance with instructions. The issue is, of course, that you may not have the time to read them when gifts have just been opened and you have so many other immediate calls on your time. Therefore, to avoid any such problems, make sure you read any safety warnings and instructions before you wrap gifts.

Keep things clean! - The holidays are frequently a time for late night entertaining with your guests and there's consequently the temptation to just retire and then clean up everything in the morning. This is fine if you don't have children, who of course tend to rise very early during the holiday season. So make sure that, for example, any alcoholic drinks, and their remains in glasses, are dealt with before you sleep.

Of course this isn't an exhaustive list of advice, but I think it does offer some good pointers to ways in which you can avoid problems by anticipating them and taking action to ensure they don't happen in the first place. I hope you find it of some use.

Dominic Nicoli