Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Holiday Safety, Package Delivery, Safety at Home, Uncategorized

Consumer Safety during the Holidays

Holiday Music Andy WilliamsAs Andy Williams sang, the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year.” However, with porch piracy, pick-pocketing, burglary and cyber theft on the rise, unless you are careful, December can turn into the most troublesome season of all. That’s a lot different than the song version, which says it’s the “hap-happiest season of all!” Don’t let holiday cheer lull you into giving thieves a chance to dampen your spirit. At the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System, we are committed to your safety. So, we wanted to take this opportunity to share tips to help keep you safe this season. Continue reading “Consumer Safety during the Holidays”

Advertisements
Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Holiday Safety, Safety at Home, Uncategorized

What You Absolutely Need to Know About Holiday Safety

 

Holiday Safety
Delicious feasts and brilliant decorations are hallmarks of the holiday season. For the record, my favorite holiday food is gizzards. Unfortunately, however, these festive favorites also can pose potential fire hazards. Thankfully, you can enjoy everything that makes the holidays special during this time of year while simultaneously keeping your loved ones safe. Continue reading “What You Absolutely Need to Know About Holiday Safety”

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Holiday Gift Ideas, Holiday Safety, Safety at Home

Be Safe this Holiday Season

Our guest blogger, Angela Burrell, Public Relations Manager for our corporate company, Universal Services of America

This post has been adapted from a blog written by Angela Burrell, Public Relations’ Manager of our corporate company, Universal Services of America. Her unaltered version first appeared on December 14, 2015. Many thanks to Angela, for sharing her blog about holiday safety.


 

Santa Claus cartoon scene trying to control fire in fireplaceOur wish for you is that you will keep the following safety and security tips in mind as you celebrate the holiday season. Share them with family, friends, colleagues, co-workers and building occupants to let them know you care. #BeSafe and Happy Holidays!

Nine Smart Shopping Tips 

  1. Park close to your destination, in a well-lit area and lock packages in the trunk, out of sight.
  2. Carry your purse close to your body and stow your wallet inside a zippered pocket.
  3. Report any suspicious activity or unattended packages to store/mall security or law enforcement.
  4. Stay vigilant this holiday season. Be aware of your surroundings: “If You See Something, Say Something.”
  5. Pay by credit card, rather than check/debit card, to reduce the risk of funds being taken from your bank account. Keep all receipts and compare them to your monthly statements.
  6. Avoid being overcharged; review your receipt if you pay by debit, to ensure that the transaction is correct. Seems like a good idea even when it’s not the holidays! 
  7. Keep your car key handy and lock your doors as soon as you get inside your vehicle.
  8. Shop online at home with known businesses. Avoid shopping online through pop-up ads as they may be phishing scams or contain malware.
  9. Conduct transactions on a secure server only; look for the padlock device on the browser’s status bar. The URL should change from http to shttp or https when asked for payment information, which indicates that the purchase is encrypted or otherwise secure. 
Report suspicious persons.
Report suspicious persons.

Eight Workplace Alerts 

  1. Report all solicitors or suspicious persons to security immediately. (The guy in this photo, at right, looks alarmingly suspicious to me. I wonder if all bad guys look the part? Probably not.)
  2. Be suspicious of unfamiliar people claiming to be repair persons, as thieves are apt to disguise themselves.
  3. Make sure your receptionist and/or security team clears any workers or contractors before allowing them into your office.
  4. Question visitors who wander throughout your offices. Legitimate guests will appreciate your offers of assistance, while potential solicitors or thieves will be deterred.
  5. Lock all personal items in a desk or file cabinet. Employees should never leave purses or wallets exposed where they can easily be stolen.
  6. Draw blinds after hours so that computers and other valuables are not visible from the outside.
  7. Close doors when the office is empty, and secure all valuables in a desk or closet when unattended.
  8. Request a security or buddy escort to your car if you are working late and feel vulnerable. 

Seven Home Safety Guides 

  1. Refresh your holiday lights; consider buying energy-efficient LED types that are cooler than conventional incandescent lights and heed indoor or outdoor use labels.
  2. Point any decorative outdoor laser light devices at your home and not towards the sky. Have you seen those new laser light shows? They are so cool. 
  3. Turn off lights or decorations before bedtime, or set automatic timers for six or eight-hour increments to conserve energy.
  4. Monitor candles and fireplace fires, and extinguish them before leaving the house or bedtime.
  5. Consider installing motion or lighting sensors that turn off automatically when no one is around.
  6. Let strangers who knock know you are home without opening your door. Do not feel compelled to donate to solicitors.
  7. Ask a neighbor to collect your mail or have the post office hold it, if you plan to travel for an extended period.

Christmas outdoor Christmas decorations - Snowman and nutcracker lights up house in Brooklyn, New YorkSix Basic Fire Rules 

  1. Fires peak, particularly in kitchens, during the holidays, so remain alert when preparing meals and keep potholders and food wrappers at least three feet away from heat sources.
  2. Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, ensuring that they work at optimal level year-round. Replace batteries, as needed.
  3. Know where your exits are located and hold regular fire drills that include practicing at least two evacuation routes from every area or building to your safe refuge area.
  4. Notify the property manager about exit lights that are broken or vandalized.
  5. Never prop open self-closing doors, as they are designed to keep flames and smoke from spreading. I don’t have a self-closing door on my doghouse. Maybe it’s time to invest? 
  6. Keep exits and stairways free from obstructions at all times. Don’t store things on or under stairways, or on landings.

Five More Tips and Resources 

  1. The National Fire Protection Association summarizes Christmas tree and holiday lights safety.
  2. Electrical Safety Foundation International’s Holiday Decorating Safety guide lists many resources.
  3. The National Safety Council recommends several Holiday Safety Tips.
  4. Be prepared for more thorough airport security checks by TSA and register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before traveling outside of the U.S., per recent travel alerts and warnings issued.
  5. Consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for recalls and alerts on toys and other products before making purchases.

We hope you enjoy a safe and secure holiday. Please view CDC’s 12 Ways to Health Holiday Song, and #BeSafe! Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare

All about Thanksgiving Safety (and eating!)

The holiday season brings food, fun and family as well as something you may not have considered — health and safety concerns. Stress, rich food and alcohol are examples of the types of things that can lead to an elevated risk of heart attack during the holidays. That’s why we pooches are always moving –to keep our tickers in shape. Since our primary concern is safety, (pork chops are secondary), we wanted to take this opportunity to offer our subscribers and friends some tips for Thanksgiving safety. Let’s get to the food!

Thanksgiving turkey runs. Illustration in vector format

Cooking Safely on Turkey Day

Thanksgiving means elaborate home-cooked meals – turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cherry pie, and rhubarb, boysenberry, shepherd’s pie, bacon pie, ribs pie…to name a few of my holiday favorites. Cooking a big meal requires patience as well as careful attention to detail. Follow these safety tips to ensure your family and friends’ safety before, during and after Thanksgiving:

  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Grease fires can start quickly and can be difficult to contain. A properly-rated and current fire extinguisher is essential.
  • Sharpen knives before cooking. While it sounds counterintuitive, sharp knives are safer than dull ones, the reason for this is that a clean slice is easier to repair than one created by jagged edges. Ouch. Sounds painful either way.
  • Be sure to place your cooked turkey on the very edge of a low countertop, so I can reach it. Well, I guess it would actually be safer to keep food out of your pets’ reach. But that should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Watch hot liquids. From gravy boats to hot beverages, scalding risks abound during the holidays. So keep foot traffic in the kitchen to a minimum, especially by children. And if you decide to fry your turkey, use extreme caution. For more details about how to safely prepare and cook a Thanksgiving meal, check out this post about Thanksgiving safety.
  • Keep little ones out of the kitchen. Kids carry germs (we dogs are much more fastidious) so they should be carefully supervised. Double-dipping isn’t just an annoying habit. It has the potential to quickly spread holiday germs.

Preparing the Bird

Since a turkey dinner is usually the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, take into account these turkey-specific tips:

  • Use the oven! While cooking the bird in a deep fryer outside might sound fun, this process is prone to accidents or even injuries…especially if there are a few cocktails involved. Sober or impaired cooks agree that oil and water do not mix. So using a frozen turkey in a fryer is a recipe for disaster.
  • Regardless of your preparation method, make sure you properly thaw frozen turkeys to ward off germs. Most birds need to be refrigerated for several days, to ensure even cooking. Don’t thaw your turkey on the countertop, as this is a breeding ground for foodborne illnesses. I was stuck outside for four hours one time during Thanksgiving. I didn’t thaw out until early March!
  • Heat the turkey thoroughly. The internal temperature of the gobbler must reach at least 165 degrees. So, to be safe, invest in a food thermometer.
  • Carefully clean surfaces. Poultry-borne bacteria is a leading cause of food poisoning. Be sure you wash everything in hot water including your hands, utensils, plates, cutting boards, and anything else that comes into contact with the turkey.
  • Cook stuffing outside of the bird! Stuffing cooks more uniformly and safely when placed in a casserole dish in the oven.

#BeSafe after the meal

  • Pack leftovers quickly when Thanksgiving dinner is over. After the meal, you might want to stretch on the couch or watch football. But remember that food should not be left on the table for more than two hours. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers so you can enjoy turkey sandwiches for days!
  • When in doubt, toss it out (or give Fido a treat!) If you aren’t able to pack up leftovers in a timely manner, toss them in the trash. Better to lose a few cents than to spend the rest of the holiday weekend in bed.
  • If you are feeling especially lethargic after the meal, organize a family walk around the neighborhood to rev up your metabolism. I do this after every big meal. Oh wait, I just do circles on my bed and then plop down and sleep for nine hours. Be careful about strenuous activity immediately after your meal. Again, I recommend napping.

Remember that safety (and eating well) is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in Fire Life Safety Training, Workplace Safety

Holiday Safety and Security Tips Part 2 of a 3-Part Series

holiday safety firedogHoliday Safety Part 2 of a 3-Part Series (Featuring Guest Blogger Angela Burrell of Universal Services of America. To see her original post, click here.) As a courtesy to our guest, I have dispensed with my usual “firedogisms” in this post, but will resume my canine commentary in next week’s blog. 

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, home holiday decorations cause more than 400 holiday fires each year, resulting in $15 million in property loss and damage. Nothing is as sad as a news story about a child dying in a Christmas tree fire or a father falling off of a ladder while decorating the exterior of his home. As our holiday gift to you, we would like to offer some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season.

firedog safety holidayLast week, we examined safe practices for choosing, displaying and decorating Christmas trees as well as working with holiday paper. For part two of our series, we are happy to welcome guest blogger Angela Burrell, who is the public relations manager for our strategic partner, Universal Services of America. Her blog post covers holiday workplace safety home safety guidelines, and basic safety rules. Next week, we will conclude our three-week series by focusing on holiday travel, shopping and cooking.

Universal Services of America reminds you to keep the following safety and security tips in mind as you celebrate the holiday season. Regift them to family, friends, colleagues, co-workers and building occupants to let them know you care. Happy holidays!

Seven Workplace Alerts

  • Report all solicitors or suspicious persons to security immediately.
  • Be suspicious of unfamiliar people claiming to be repair persons, as thieves are apt to disguise themselves.
  • Make sure your receptionist clears any workers or contractors before allowing them into your office.
  • Question visitors who wander throughout your offices. Legitimate guests will appreciate your offers of assistance, while potential solicitors or thieves will be deterred.
  • Lock all personal items in a desk or file cabinet. Employees should never leave purses or wallets exposed where they can easily be stolen.
  • Close doors when the office is empty, and secure all valuables in a desk or closet when unattended.
  • Request a security or buddy escort to your car if you are working late and feel vulnerable.

Seven Basic Fire Rules

  • Fires peak, particularly in kitchens, during the holidays – so remain alert when preparing meals and keep potholders and food wrappers at least three feet away from heat sources.
  • Monitor candles and fireplace fires, and extinguish them before leaving the house or bedtime.
  • Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, ensuring that they work at optimal level year-round. Replace batteries, as needed.
  • Know where your exits are located and hold regular fire drills that include practicing at least two evacuation routes from every area or building.
  • Notify the property manager about exit lights that are broken or vandalized.
  • Never prop open self-closing doors, as they are designed to keep flames and smoke from spreading.
  • Keep exits and stairways free from obstructions at all times. Don’t store things on or under stairways, or on landings.

Six Home Safety Guides

  • Refresh your holiday lights; consider buying energy-efficient LED types that are cooler than conventional incandescent lights.
  • Limit the number of lights strung together and use appropriate ones for outdoors or indoors.
  • Turn off lights or decorations before bedtime, or set automatic timers for six or eight-hour increments to conserve energy.
  • Consider installing motion or lighting sensors that turn off automatically when no one is around.
  • Ask a neighbor to collect mail or have the post office hold it if you plan to travel for an extended period.
  • Let strangers who knock know you are home without opening your door. Do not feel compelled to donate to solicitors.

Five More Tips and Resources

Next week, check back, as we will finish our series about holiday safety. We hope that this blog post will help inform you about ways to #BESAFE this holiday season, and always, by taking necessary steps to improve your health and safety. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted in Holiday Safety

How to #BeSafe this Holiday Season

Part 1 of a 3-part series

Holiday Safety 2014cAccording to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, home holiday decorations cause more than 400 holiday fires each year, resulting in $15 million in property loss and damage. Nothing is as sad as a news story about a child dying in a Christmas tree fire or a father falling off of a ladder while decorating the exterior of his home. As our holiday gift to you, we would like to offer some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season.

This week, we will look at safe practices for choosing, displaying and decorating Christmas trees as well as working with holiday paper. Next week, we will feature a guest blogger, whose entry will cover holiday workplace safety, basic safety rules and home safety guidelines. Finally, we will conclude our three-week series by focusing on holiday travel, shopping and cooking.

Holiday Safety for 2014

Christmas Trees

Choosing your tree

  • Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you choose to go with a fake tree, choose one that is rated as such.
  • If you decide to go with a live tree, freshness is key. A newly cut tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree…not to mention it will look nicer than one that is dead and brown.
  • To check for freshness, remember that a fresh tree is green, and fresh needles are hard to pull from branches. They also do not give when bent between your fingers.
  • When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry. Keep looking.
  • The trunk of a freshly harvested tree should be sticky with resin.
  • I advise keeping lots of water in your tree bucket. Dogs like to drink from it…though (for safety), we really shouldn’t.

holiday safety 2014eDisplaying your tree

  • Before deciding where to put your tree, think about more than whether it is located near a picture window. Instead, make sure you choose a place in your home that is clear of all sources of heat including fireplaces, radiators and lamps. You might also want to consider where it won’t tempt your pet, since we tend to consider Christmas trees indoor plumbing!
  • Heated rooms dry out trees rapidly, creating fire hazards. So make sure your home remains relatively cool. But use common sense. If you’re cold, the tree probably will be too. It is alive, after all…if you choose a live one instead of a plastic fake version.
  • When prepping the tree, cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for sufficient water absorption. Trim away branches as necessary to set your tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with wide spread feet. Keep the stand filled with water while the tree is indoors. And this isn’t just so Fido has another cool water option. It’s actually to keep the tree alive as long as possible.
  • Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways. If necessary, use thin guide-wires to secure a large tree to walls or ceiling. These wires are nearly invisible but will keep the tree safe even in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster.

Decorating

  • Artificial snow sprays can irritate lungs if inhaled. If you like the look of a flocked tree, just make sure you avoid potential injury by reading container labels and carefully following directions. I’m not one for flocked trees. They block the fresh pine scent.
  • Interior Lighting. Use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using. Lights are so cheap these days, you can afford to pitch them and start from scratch instead of looking for a single burnt out bulb to replace.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house, walls or other firm support to protect from wind damage.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. If they are not properly displayed, lights could short and start a fire. It might be tempting to leave them on. But resist the urge. Safety first!
  • Use colored spotlights above or beside a tree instead of fastened onto it.
  • Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. The bright colors and bubbling movement could tempt curious children to break the light, leaking poisonous liquid and posing an electrical hazard. I’ve never seen bubbling lights. But they sounds scary.

Wrapping-related Safety

  • If you decide to make paper decorations, choose papers, glitter and adhesives that are not flammable. Or, better yet, encourage the kiddos to work with something other than paper if they plan to hang it from the tree.
  • Don’t place trimming near open flames or electrical connections.
  • Remove all wrapping papers from tree and fireplace areas immediately after presents are opened. This is particularly important during parties and Christmas morning, when distractions abound.
  • Do not ever burn papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely

Next week, check back, as we will continue our three-week series about holiday safety. We hope that this blog post will help inform you about ways to #BESAFE this holiday season, and always, by taking necessary steps to improve your health and safety. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness

This Holiday Season, BE SAFE

snowman with construction helmetHoliday Safety Tips

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or an occasion you made up yourself, we want to make sure you stay safe this holiday season. So, from all of us at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, please read and follow our Holiday Safety Tips, which cover best practices for holiday decorations, food and toys. Please accept our warmest wishes for a safe and wonderful celebration:

Decorations

  • Don’t use lighted candles near trees, boughs, curtains/drapes, or with anything that is potentially flammable.
  • Wear gloves while decorating with “angel hair.” It can irritate your eyes and skin. Does anyone actually still decorate with this stuff? Why not just use fiberglass while you’re at it? Safety, people!
  • When spraying artificial snow, be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Sprays like these can irritate your lungs. I prefer real snow.
  • Small children and puppies may think that holiday plants look good enough to eat. Unfortunately, many holiday plant varieties (such as mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis) are poisonous and/or can cause severe stomach problems if ingested. So keep them well out of the reach of kids and pets.
  • Cut off about two inches off the trunk of your tree and place the base in a sturdy, water-filled stand. Monitor water level so the tree does not dry out and become combustible. This can be problematic if you’ve got a dog who likes to drink tree water.
  • Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and heat sources. Also, for safety, don’t place the tree where it blocks foot and paw traffic or doorways.
  • Avoid placing breakable tree ornaments on low-hanging branches where small children or pets can reach them.
  • If you opt for an artificial tree, choose one that has been tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should be approved by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). I prefer real trees.
  • Use indoor lights inside and outdoor lights outside. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace or repair damaged light sets.
  • Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. (Have you seen Christmas Vacation?) Extension cords should be placed against the wall to prevent tripping hazards. Never run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.
  • Turn off lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Unplug extension cords when they are not in use.
  • If using a natural tree, keep it well watered so dry branches won’t ignite when they touch warm bulbs.
  • If you decide to display outdoor lights, fasten them firmly to a secure support with insulated staples or hooks. Snoopy really had a talent for exterior illumination.
  • Don’t nail or tack wiring when hanging lights.
  • Keep plugs off the ground, far from puddles and snow.

Food

  • When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family wash your hands, utensils, the sink and countertop, and anything else that comes in contact with raw poultry.
  • Don’t defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
  • Keep knives sharp. Believe it or not, most knife injuries occur due to dull blades instead of sharp ones.
  • Use a clean food thermometer to make sure internal temperature of food is safe.
  • Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges. These harbor bacteria and promote bacteria growth. For safety, use clean paper towels instead.
  • When reheating leftovers, bring the temperature up to at least 165°F to eliminate the risk of bacterial growth.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers within two hours after cooking. Or, better yet, give them to the dog!

Toys

  • Make sure toys suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child and/or puppy.
  • Read instructions carefully before allowing your child or dog to play with something he or she has received as a gift.
  • To prevent burns and electrical shock, don’t give young children toys that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. On average, battery-operated toys are safer.
  • Since young kids can choke on small parts, follow government recommendations that say toys for children under the age of three cannot contain parts that are less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
  • Keep children and puppies from swallowing button batteries and magnets. These are found in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids and other small electronics as well as toys. If your child swallows a battery of any kind, immediately call your health care provider.
  • Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children or pets.
  • Children can choke or suffocate on broken balloons. So do not allow children under age eight to play with them.
  • Pull-toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length are choking hazards for babies. Keep kids away from strings and cords.
  • Store toys in designated locations, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest.

For more about holiday safety, check out the free information provided by the National Safety Council, the National Fire Protection Association and our previous posts. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in BE SAFE, Health & Welfare

This Holiday Season, BE SAFE Shopping

Fiery black friday sale design.By the dozens, to maximize holiday profits, retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day–a full day earlier than usual–to lure shoppers who are searching for bargains. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to leave a perfectly good turkey dinner to go shopping…unless they are shopping for bacon. Whether you agree with this tactic or not, at some point this season, you will likely venture out to pick up a few things, like bacon. So we would like to give you some tips to keep you safe.

Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while hunting for bargains:

Walking to and from Your Car or Public Transportation

  • Park in a well-lit area.
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your windows shut. (But don’t keep your dog inside your car when you go into the mall.)
  • Before exiting your car, stash cell phones, tablets and other valuables, like bacon, out of sight.
  • Remember where you parked your car. Some shopping areas are spread out over large areas. If you are unable to locate your car, you can face undue confusion and stress which will make you an easy target for opportunistic criminals.
  • Once you purchase items, lock them securely in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
  • Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Keep your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle.
  • Before getting into the car, check the back seat and around the car.

Shopping Online

  • Update security software. Your desktop, laptop and/or tablet computer should have virus protection, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a dependable firewall.
  • Guard personal information. Never respond to requests to verify your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact.
  • If a bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is! For example…if someone is selling pork chops for pennies, resist the urge to buy it. Shop where you feel secure.
  • Use only secure websites for purchases. Before entering credit card information, check the URL (address bar) of the website where you are shopping. Unless you see a padlock at or “https” (instead of http) in the URL, shop somewhere else that is secure.
  • Shop only with companies you know and trust. I like Petco.
  • Print and save confirmation information from all of your online purchases.
  • Make sure Smartphone apps are downloaded from a trusted source, such as the Android Market, Apple App Store or the Amazon App Store.
  • Do online shopping from the comfort of your own home or doghouse. A secure network connection is ideal. Public Wi-Fi can be hacked by someone with the right tools, exposing your passwords, billing information and other sensitive data. 

Shopping in Stores

  • Shop during daylight hours whenever possible.
  • If possible, don’t carry a purse or wallet. Keep cash in your front pocket.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash.
  • If your credit card is lost or stolen, notify the credit card issuer immediately.
  • At all times, stay alert to your surroundings.
  • Don’t buy more packages than you can carry. Taking loads of sacks and wrapped gifts to your car is an invitation for thieves to strike. Instead, plan ahead. Take a friend with you or ask someone to help you carry your packages to the car.
  • Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook.  Enterprising thieves could stand over your shoulder to steal your account information.
  •  If you see an unattended package or bag, immediately inform a security guard or store employee.
  • Dress casually and comfortably. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.

Shopping with Kids

  • If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you become separated.
  • If your children are old enough to shop without your supervision, select a central meeting place.
  • Teach them to know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.
  • Don’t dress your kids in clothes with labels that have their name. Such clothing invites predators to convince kids they aren’t strangers.
  • If you see anything suspicious or if something just doesn’t feel right, leave immediately and contact security or the police.

For more useful shopping tips and personal safety information, check out resources from the National Crime Prevention Council, LAPDOnline, Stay Safe Online, Webroot, FEMA, DHS and our previous posts. My pal, McGruff the Crime Dog, has some helpful hints for you. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in Fire Safety, Fires, Safety at Home

Safety Tips for Holiday Decorations

C

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

While it may not be as much to think about holiday safety as it is to go Christmas shopping, it’s imperative that you take time to consider how to make the season as safe as possible. According to FEMA, the holidays pose serious fire hazards:

  1. In December, 72% of structure fires occur in residential buildings.
  2. The use of traditional adornments such as Christmas trees and decorations provide additional points of igni­tion that increase the incidence of holiday fires.
  3. The leading cause of December residential building-structure fires involve cooking.
  4. All of the holiday hoopla could cause you to potentially run out of turkey jerky if you don’t stock up and that could drive your dog to do something drastic, like staring a signal fire in the living room.

To help make holiday fire-prevention easy, the professionals at RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services have assembled a few tips to help you and your friends, family and colleagues BE SAFE this holiday season. This week, we will focus on trees and lighting. Check out next week’s post, as well, as we’ll tackle kitchen safety tips relative to holiday cooking and wrapping. I prefer giving food for holiday gifts. It’s so much easier to just eat the gifts than to try to find a place to store them in the doghouse.

Lights

Outdoors

  • Make sure the light strands you select to use outside are approved for outdoor use.
  • Only use lights that have been tested and approved for safety. This identification will be labeled by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Keep lights far from flammable sources such as dry timber and paper products.
  • Fasten lights securely to trees, your house or exterior walls or to anchor strands and prevent wind damage.
  • You might want to make sure the lights are waterproof. I know lots of canines who like to mark this type of thing. Just sayin’.

Indoors

  • As with outdoor lights, use only interior decorating lights that have been tested and approved for safety. Identifications of this kind are made by independent testing laboratories.
  • Check light sets whether new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections.
  • Discard or repair damaged sets. It is better to postpone decorating than deal with the aftermath of a structural fire. So take the time to make sure your lights are fire safe.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. What is this? Christmas Vacation? Safety first, people!
  • Turn off lights (as well as other decorations) when you go to bed or leave the house. This will prevent lights from shorting out and starting fires.
  • Don’t use electric lights on a metallic tree. And while we’re on the subject, do you think the best you can do is to buy a metallic tree? I prefer good old fashioned wood!
  • Trees can become charged with electricity from faulty lights. If this happens, anyone who touches a branch of the affected tree runs the risk of electrocution! To avoid this, use colored spotlights above or beside trees instead of fastening large lights directly to a tree.
  • Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. Any lights that feature bright colors and bubbling could tempt curious children to break candle-shaped glass. This is dangerous as the glass can cut and the liquid contents contain hazardous chemicals.

Candles

  • This should go without saying. But we would rather you BE SAFE than sorry. So we want to make sure to warn against anyone using lighted candles on a tree or near evergreens of any kind.
  • Use only non-flammable candle holders.
  • Place candles far out of reach of children and pets as well as out of pathways where they could potentially be knocked down or blown over.
  • If you are lighting a menorah, make sure the candlelight is far from decorations and wrapping paper. Cellophane packaging and gift bags with tissue paper are great for wrapping. But they are also extremely flammable. So store them far from candles.

Trees

  • Fresh trees are green. If someone tries to sell you a tree that is brown, back slowly away and find another lot.
  • Fresh needles are difficult to pull off of branches. If needles fall like snow, find another tree.
  • Fresh needles are difficult to break. Don’t buy a tree that has brittle needles.
  • Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you buy one, look for a statement specifying this protection.
  • The butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
  • When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry.
  • Place tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Heated rooms dry trees rapidly, which could create a fire hazard.
  • When preparing your tree to place in a stand, cut off two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for effective water absorption. Try to make a clear pathway so your dog can drink from the tree stand. Or not. Your choice.
  • Trim extra branches and set the trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water as long as the tree is indoors.
  • Place your tree out of the pathway of traffic and don’t block doorways.
  • Fresh trees smell great. (Just a casual observation.)

Next week, we’ll cover more holiday safety tips. Until then, enjoy holiday preparations and BE SAFE. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the RJWestmore Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.