The grounds around West Columbia City Hall are adorned with lights and the Christmas spirit abounds.
To keep the mood festive, it is a good idea to put safety and security first. West Columbia Fire Chief Marquis Solomon and West Columbia Police Chief Marion Boyce see the possible hazards that can sometimes accompany the holidays. They have some tips on keeping the yule time a safe time.
“Because temperatures drop in December, make sure you use caution when heating your home,” Solomon said. “If you use alternative sources of heat (like a stand-alone heater) make sure the fuel you are using is the correct fuel,” he said. Otherwise a heater can become combustible.
There are also precautions to take when using electric heaters.
“Do not place an electric heater, or any heater, near anything flammable,” Solomon said. “And clear at least three-feet of space around the heater. Remove all clutter that could catch fire.”
Despite the increase in home heating in the winter, Solomon said there is a slight decrease in the number of house fires around the holidays.
“People are home more during the holidays, and when they are home they can monitor possible situations that may otherwise lead to a fire,” he said.
While residents may be more vigilant in their homes during the holidays, there is another seasonal hazzard that needs attention.
“Make sure you keep your Christmas tree watered if you have a real tree,” Solomon said. “A dry tree makes it more likely to be flammable.”
Another holiday activity that could invite a house fire is cooking.
“Don’t leave your home with the oven on, unattended,” Solomon said.
A recent trend in holiday cooking is the deep-fried turkey. Solomon said it’s a good idea to conduct a trial run, with water, before grease is heated to where it’s hot and boiling.
In addition to the threat of fire in the holiday season, crime is another concern.
“Historically, there is an increase in armed robbery this time of the year,” said Boyce. “But we’ve actually seen a decrease in armed robbery.”
Boyce said it’s likely the decrease in armed robbery can be attributed to the fact there are now fewer businesses open on a 24-hour basis. He also said the West Columbia Police Department is using statistical crime data in order to place resources where they will be most effective. Burglary, a crime that is often more frequent during the holidays, is also on a dramatic decrease in West Columbia. The chief explains why burglaries may be fewer.
“We’re taking a pro-active patrol approach,” Boyce said.
The WCPD works 3,000 calls a month. Boyce said if a lot of calls come from a particular geographical location, patrols are increased in that area until there is a decrease in criminal activity.
While armed robbery is down this year, car theft and theft from cars is still a problem.
“Motor vehicle theft is on the rise,” Boyce said. He advises car owners not to leave their cars running, unattended, in order to heat them. He also said make sure to lock your vehicle at night to reduce the number of car break-ins.
More Fire Prevention Tips
- Only use decorations that are flame-retardant or not flammable
- Check holiday lights each year for frayed wires or excessive wear
- Don’t link more than three strands of holiday lights
- Never leave a burning candle unattended. Consider battery-operated candles
- Keep your live Christmas tree away from heat sources and room exits
- Water your live Christmas tree daily to keep it from becoming dry
More Crime Prevention Tips
- Make sure all doors and windows have secondary locks
- Don’t hide spare keys in mailboxes or planters, or under doormats.
- Ensure that dark areas and entrances have outdoor lights that are turned on after dark
- Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed so they do not conceal doors and windows.
- Place gifts where they can’t be seen from the outside
- Consider safe deposit boxes for valuables
- Be sure to mail cards, checks or gift certificates from the US Post Office
- Lock your vehicle and remove all the valuables, even in your driveway