Holiday Safety Tips for Your Home, Car, Pets…and Self

The Los Angeles Department of Animal Services is just one of several city agencies providing valuable holiday health and safety tips this year. (Photo from LA Animal Services)

The holiday season can be a time of great joy, when many cares are set aside for a few days or weeks while we enjoy good times and focus on friends, family and loved ones.  At the same time, however, we want to make sure that our joyful times don’t distract from our mindfulness of health and safety.  Here are a few valuable tips – collected from city agencies, community crime watch groups, and others – for staying safe and protecting ourselves, our families, our pets and our property during the holidays.

HOME

Holiday lights

  • Replace any light strings with frayed or broken wiring
  • Use only outdoor-rated, water resistant lights and other electric decorations outdoors
  • Switch to cooler LED lights for your Christmas tree, especially if the tree is a real one and will become increasingly dry the longer it’s up

Christmas trees

  • Keep real trees watered to help prevent dryness
  • Tie or weight trees to help prevent them from falling over (especially if you have babies, toddlers or pets)
  • Use unbreakable ornaments, especially on lower branches within reach of babies, toddlers, or pets)

Candles

  • Don’t unwrap gifts on or near tables or other surfaces where candles are burning
  • Keep candles away from Christmas trees and paper/flammable decorations
  • Don’t leave candles unattended, especially when young children or pets are around
  • Make sure all candles are extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house

Fireplaces

  • Pay attention to SCAQMD “No Burn” days, and avoid wood fires, indoors and outdoors, on those days
  • Make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean and in good repair before lighting holiday fires
  • Keep fireplaces and firepits screened to prevent sparks from traveling
  • Keep children and pets away from open fires

Going Away

  • Suspend newspaper and mail delivery while you’re out of town, or have a friend or neighbor pick them up each day
  • Leave some lights on if you’ll be gone overnight (even better:  put some lights on timers to go on and off at normal times)
  • Leave a car in your driveway while you’re gone, if that’s what you normally do.
  • Set your alarm system, if you have one
  • Turn off and unplug computers and other items that might be sensitive to power surges or outages while you’re gone
  • Notify your patrol service, if you have one, of the dates you’ll be gone and when you’ll return
  • Find a trusted housesitter, and let neighbors (and security services) know who will be staying at (or just checking on) your home while you’re gone
  • Leave keys with a neighbor and/or friend
  • If you’ll be gone more than a few days, and don’t have a housesitter, have a friend or neighbor keep an eye on the house and walk through every couple of days, just to make sure there have been no issues like break-ins (attempted or successful), plumbing problems, etc.
  • Be a good neighbor and offer to do the same, if you’ll be home, for any of your neighbors who will be traveling

Packages and Purchases

  • If you can’t be home to receive packages, leave instructions for delivery persons to hide items or deliver them to a neighbor who will be home
  • Have packages delivered to your office, or (for Amazon.com deliveries) an Amazon Locker location (there are several at 7-Eleven stores in our area)
  • If buying things from individual sellers you don’t know (e.g. through CraigsList), meet at a safe exchange zone, which includes all of our local LAPD community police station lobbies

Etc.

  • If you didn’t change your smoke and CO2 alarm batteries when Daylight Savings Time ended in October, New Year’s Day is also a great time to do it, to help keep you safe (and unannoyed by beeping battery alarms) throughout the new year.

VEHICLES

  • Don’t park long distances from your destination, especially after dark and when travelling alone
  • When shopping, don’t put valuables in your trunk, within public view, and then walk away
  • Don’t leave valuable items in your car, even when parked at your own home
  • Don’t leave cars unlocked
  • Don’t leave keys in cars
  • Don’t leave young children or pets unattended in cars

PETS

  • Keep pets (especially cats) away from tinsel and other decorations they may be tempted to play with or accidentally ingest
  • Secure Christmas trees to make them less vulnerable to tipping
  • Don’t overfeed pets during holiday feasts, and be careful of what you feed them (avoid fatty foods, poultry bones, raw yeast dough, etc.)
  • Be aware of holiday foods (chocolate, grapes/raisins, etc.) that can be particularly toxic to pets
  • Don’t leave pets unattended near holiday foods
  • If you’re leaving town, leave pets with a responsible sitter or boarding facility
  • Make sure all medications and identifications (tag, chips) are up to date, and that medication supplies will cover the duration of your trip
  • Leave vet information with your pet sitter
  • Avoid pet-irritant or more toxic holiday flowers and plants (poinsettias can cause gastric distress, but – according to LA Animal Services – are not as toxic as holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, lillies and others)
  • Be aware that pets can be spooked by holiday fireworks, party poppers and other noisemakers, and help to keep them calm if such devices are in use
  • Keep pets away from the opens flames of candles, fireplaces and firepits
  • If you are giving a pet as a holiday gift, make sure the pet is wanted and welcomed by its recipient.
  • If you receive a pet as a gift, be sure to create some quiet time and space for the animal to get to know its new home and family (transitions to new people and places can be scary, especially when there are a lot of new people, and a lot of holiday hubub, in the mix)

SELVES

  • When walking, always be aware of your surroundings and not distracted by your phone or other electronic device (thieves often target distracted walkers to grab phones, purses and packages)
  • Don’t walk alone, especially at night, with lots of packages
  • If you’re out celebrating, don’t drink and drive – have a designated driver, use a ride share service, or take advantage of free Metro rides on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, or other free shuttle and ride services at peak holiday times
  • Try to eat well, get enough sleep, take some time for yourself, and/or treat yourself to a favorite something…to help yourself stay happy and healthy during this busy, sometimes stressful season.

HELPFUL LINKS

Happy holidays from the Larchmont Buzz!

Photo from LA Animal Services
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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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