Our deputy city marshals and emergency management team have some tips about how to keep yourself, your home and your identity safe this holiday season.
Keeping Your Home Safe
If traveling, get an automatic timer for your residential home lights, ask a neighbor to watch your home and to park their vehicle in your driveway from time to time. Don’t forget to have mail and newspaper delivery stopped.
If you are out for the evening — turn on lights and radio/tv to make it appear as if someone is home.
Consider not posting vacation pictures on social media while you are away. This alerts others that your home may be vacant.
Be extra cautious about locking doors/windows at your home when you leave.
Don’t display gifts where they can be seen from outside.
Criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts. Be cautious when opening the door and accepting packages.
It is not uncommon for others to take advantage of others’ generosity during the holidays by going door-to-door for charitable donations. Ask for identifications and find out how funds will be used.
Protecting Your Home from Household Hazards
Many household chemicals such as aerosols or water-based paints should be stored at room temperature. Follow instructions on the warning label regarding how best to store your chemicals, and never store them near food or food products.
If you have a fireplace, have a professional sweep out the chimney before your first usage of the winter. Dead animals and previous residue may clog your chimney and can create a potential fire hazard.
Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order, especially before turning your furnace on for the first time.
If your outdoor grill has a propane tank, keep the tank connected, but shut it off. Never bring the tank inside or store in an enclosed area.
Never use your stove as a heating device, which could create a build-up of carbon monoxide in your home. Approximately 400 people die every year in the United States from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
Avoiding Holiday Package Theft
Track deliveries online and confirm delivery has occurred.
If you know a family member or neighbor will be home, ask them to retrieve the package once you receive confirmation delivered.
Pickup packages from the store or post office when possible, rather than delivery during the holiday season.
Avoiding Car Break Ins
Do not leave valuables in your vehicle. It is better to take them with you rather than hiding them.
Make sure to lock your vehicle doors.
Park in well-lit areas.
Always be aware of the area/surroundings you are parking in.
Staying Safe When Walking To Your Car
When walking to/from your vehicle always have your keys out and ready when approaching your vehicle.
Be aware of your surroundings/situational awareness.
Look around and inside your vehicle before getting into your vehicle.
If you are concerned for any reason, simply walk past your vehicle and call for help.
Avoid talking on your cellphone while you drive and while walking in parking lots — concentrate on your driving and your surroundings.
When getting gas, lock all doors except the driver's door. Do not leave your handbag or wallet on the seat.
Being Safe When Shopping Online
Don’t give your personal information unless you are absolutely sure it is safe.
Secure shopping means that the use secure servers which receive and store your personal information in encrypted form so that if anyone intercepts your transaction they won’t be able to decode the data.
Secure site pages will have addresses starting with https, rather than http.
Utilize a credit card rather than a debit card when possible. Credit card companies will typically give you an immediate credit when you dispute erroneous charges.
Being Safe At The ATM
Always watch for suspicious persons or activity around an ATM.
ATMs inside of businesses provide less opportunity for criminals.
Be aware of anyone sitting in a vehicle in close proximity to or at a distance from an ATM location.
If you notice anything strange, leave and return another time or go to another ATM location.
If you get cash put it away immediately — do not stand at the ATM and count it.
If you use a drive-up ATM — ensure your vehicle doors/windows are locked.