UHDPS Offers Holiday Safety Tips
Houston-’Tis the season to be jolly, and more importantly, it’s a time of the year to be safe. Burglars and robbers tend to enjoy the holiday season because they enjoy the potential gifts awaiting them in your home, automobile or office.
To help everyone enjoy the upcoming holidays, the University of Houston’s Department of Public Safety offers these holiday safety tips.
WHILE AT WORK
- Lunchtime holiday shopping is common. Secure your purchases in a safe place and take everything home at the end of day.
- Keep your purse or wallet with you, or locked securely in your desk drawer or workstation.
- Employees should be especially aware of their surroundings; criminals sometimes try to take advantage of the holiday spirit in the workplace. Often, employees are not as focused on office tasks as usual. If you see unauthorized people in a place where they do not belong, notify your supervisor.
IF YOU ARE STAYING AT HOME
- Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave your house or apartment, even for a few minutes. Don’t forget to lock doors or windows even when you are at home.
- Don’t display holiday gifts where they can be seen from a window or doorway. Store them away until needed. Even empty wrapped boxes are inviting to a criminal.
- Mark all new electronic equipment purchases with an identification number and keep a record of serial numbers, makes, and models for insurance purposes.
- Jewelry and expensive clothing should also have identification marks or engravings of some type.
- Be wary of solicitations for charitable donations. Don’t hesitate to call the organization for further details.
- Many con artists take advantage of holiday generosity by going door-to-door. Ask for identification and get specifics on how donations will be used. If you feel uncomfortable, just say “no thank you” and shut the door.
- Make sure your home is equipped with working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, as well as develop and practice a fire escape plan for your household.
- Be sure your Christmas tree is mounted on a sturdy base in order to avoid accidents.
- Use only fire-resistant ornaments on your holiday tree and make sure electric lights are in good working order. Don’t leave holiday lights on overnight or when you are away even if only for a short time. Make limited use of extension cords as they create additional fire hazards and “trip” hazards.
- Keep doors locked and be extra careful of strangers coming to your door, as criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts. Be wary of suspicious-looking couriers delivering packages to you or your neighbors.
- Turn on outside lights to deter burglars.
- Report any suspicious behavior to police or local community watch groups.
- Make sure your homeowners/renters insurance is up-to-date and everything is inventoried properly. If you are going out for the evening, turn on some lights, a radio or TV so that it appears that someone is home.
- Keep your car doors and trunk locked, whether they are parked in your driveway or garage.
- Shop before dark and with a friend.
- Shopping with kids? Teach them to go to a store clerk if they get separated from you, and to NEVER leave the store/mall if they become separated from you. Children should never be permitted to go to the parking lot by themselves or stay in the car alone.
- Stay alert and be aware of what’s happening around you.
- Be aware of con games this time of the year – people wanting to share “found” money, selling merchandise out of their vehicles, etc.
- Avoid carrying large sums of money. Only carry money/credit cards that you will need during your shopping trip. Carry your money/credit cards in separate pockets.
- If you carry a purse, keep it on the shoulder that faces the stores, keeping one hand on your purse if possible. This prevents someone from running up beside you and snatching your purse. Do not wear your purse across your chest, serious injury can occur if someone tries to snatch your purse.
- When using public washrooms and store dressing rooms, try to avoid putting your purse on hooks, the floor or door handles.
- While shopping, do not leave purses and wallets in the grocery cart or shopping basket.
- Condense your shopping bags into bags from less expensive stores.
- Limit the number of purchase at one time, take packages to your vehicle and put them out of sight, preferably inside your trunk. Then, MOVE YOUR VEHICLE before returning to the store/mall to continue shopping. As far as a thief is concerned, you have left the area.
- Park in well lit areas. Ask yourself what will the area you are parking in look like AFTER nightfall when you have finished shopping and return to your vehicle.
- Make sure your car doors are locked at all times.
- Don’t make your vehicle a display case for thieves who window shop by walking from car to car looking for merchandise in plain view. Put your purchases out of sight, or in your trunk.
- When walking to your car, survey the area around the building and the parking lot.
- Walk with your head up and make eye contact with people passing by. The last thing a criminal wants is to be identified.
- Have your keys ready to open the door or trunk as you approach your vehicle.
- Check around and under your vehicle before unlocking the doors (key or remote) and entering.
- Avoid placing your purse or purchases on top of your vehicle in order to open the door.
- When in doubt, ask for a security escort from the mall to your vehicle.
- If you see something suspicious upon arriving in a parking lot, do not get out of your vehicle. Park at another location and call the police with your observations. When returning to your vehicle and you see something suspicious, do not go directly to your vehicle, return to the store and notify the police.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELING
- Give a friend, neighbor or relative your travel route, itinerary and cellular phone number before you leave. Keep in contact with family and friends while on the road.
- Get automatic timers for your lights at home. Remember to set them at different times.
- Ask neighbors to watch your home and park in your driveway from time to time. Ask them to set one of their trashcans out in your driveway on trash day as if it was yours.
- Don’t forget to have mail and newspaper delivery stopped, or picked up by a neighbor.
- Don’t leave holiday packages where they can be seen.
- Make sure your cellular phone is in working order in case of an emergency.
- Be sure your vehicle is in good running order. Inspect, or have your car inspected. Check brakes, tires, antifreeze, wiper fluid, gasoline, lights battery and wipers.
- Pack several warm blankets, ample drinking water, flares, first aid kit, fire extinguisher and two flashlights with fresh batteries.
- Get plenty of rest before you leave.
- Leave early and give yourself plenty of time to make the drive. Don’t speed!
- Make sure everyone wears his seatbelt at all times. Children should ride in the back seat. Children younger than 6, or under 60 pounds, should ride in an approved car safety seat appropriate for their height and weight.
- Avoid taking over-the-counter medications that could make you drowsy while you drive.
- Never drink and drive!
PREPARING THE HOLIDAY MEAL
- Assign an adult to watch over little ones outside of the kitchen. With hot baking dishes, pots of boiling water being carried to the sink, every burner on the stove working double time and a hot oven door opening and closing, you don’t want children running through the kitchen.
- Check your fire extinguisher to be sure it is in proper working condition.
- Put any sharp object into the sink immediately after use. You don’t want a wandering little one to come in and pull it off the counter.
- Use the back burners first, and then use the front ones. Be sure to turn the pot handles in.
- Use the same supervising system during kitchen cleanup. Empty all glasses with alcoholic beverages into the sink so little ones don’t accidentally take a sip.