Water tree, lock doors to protect home this holiday

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 11, 2013

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Maybe the gifts are bought and wrapped, and the parties are planned, but is your home ready for the holidays?

Local public safety officials want residents to know there are always things to remember this time of year to protect your home, property and yourself.

Fire Marshal M. Bodnar said checking that smoke detectors in the home are functioning properly — and that there is one in every sleeping area and one on every floor of a home — is a good first start to preventing holiday fires. And while many homeowners already know of two exits from their house in case of a fire, make sure to let overnight guests in on those routes, as well.

When choosing a tree, Bodnar said artificial ones can be safer but for those who want a live tree, cutting it fresh and keeping it well watered can minimize the danger. Any tree should be erected away from all ignition sources, she said.

“Any tree that you’re going to decorate, the lights should be rated and inspected for that use,” Bodnar said, adding that she recommends avoiding using extension cords because they may not be rated for as much power as ends up coursing through them. If you do use extension cords, however, do not leave them unattended, she said.

Trees should be discarded once the needles begin to drop.

For that holiday scent without the live tree, many use candles throughout the home. Bodnar said those can bring their own dangers.

“Try (not to) put the candles near the trees; (put them) away from draperies. Make sure they’re in a stable holder because pets and kids can knock those down,” she said.

Fireplaces should be inspected and cleaned each year by a reputable company and those cooking should not leave the stove unattended, she said.

Most importantly, Bodnar said, make sure a working fire extinguisher that is still within the date recommendations on the manufacturer’s box is in the home.

And, said St. Clair Shores Police Community Resource Officer Kevin Kimm, “especially for this time of year, make sure you have your Christmas tree lights turned off before you leave the home.”

To ensure the safety of your belongings, Kimm said to double check that vehicles parked in front of the home or in the driveway are locked, as is the garage and all interior windows.

“For shoppers, if you’re shopping in the evening, make sure you’re parking under a light,” he said. “For our women, I would say do not carry large purses — carry your license, carry your credit card and cash in a front pocket.”

If you drop off items in the car between stores, do not leave them in the backseat, he said; get them out of sight in the trunk.

“Same thing goes for around your house,” Kimm said. “Do not have presents out early where they can be seen from a front window by a passerby.”

And for those heading over the river to grandmother’s house? Or to Florida and other distant locales?

“Let a trusted family member or friend know of your whereabouts and let them know what vehicles are going to be left out,” Kimm said. “Let your trusted neighbor know that this vehicle would be the only vehicle in the driveway at that time.”

Also use timers for lights and, if leaving for more than seven days, let the Police Department know.

A form at the front desk of the Police Department will alert officers to the home’s vacancy, and they can step up patrols in the area.

And, he said, scammers are stepping up their efforts, so beware.

“Be aware, again, of people stating that you won from a sweepstakes … bill collectors saying you have to utilize Western Union — anything of that nature. There is a lot of false pretenses,” he said. “Just be aware. If it sounds too good to be true, more than likely, it very well is.”