Winter is upon us, and along with chillier temperatures come seasonal hazards unique to the months October through April.
The National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories, an independent safety testing organization, are reminding people about the importance of safe holiday decorating habits.
Keeping fresh Christmas trees well-watered is not only vital to the tree's beauty, but a dry tree can become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
"Because many trees have been dormant for a couple months, it's typical for them to absorb most of their water within six to eight hours after being brought into a warm home. Families should make a fresh cut to the trunk and place the tree in water as soon as possible once getting it home," said Beth Walterscheidt, president of the association.
Trees should be discarded in four weeks. If you put up your Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, it needs to be taken down the week after Christmas.
Some tips to prevent holiday decorations from leading to tragedy:
• Regularly check your tree for fresh, green needles. Trees that have dried out over several weeks burn faster than fresh, well-watered trees. Remember to keep your tree watered at all times.
• Always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of the reach of children, and don't leave children unattended in a room with lit candles.
• Carefully inspect each electrical decoration - new or old - before plugging it in. Cracked sockets, frayed, bare or loose wires can cause a serious electric shock or start a fire.
The Nevada Department of Public Safety and the Nevada Department of Transportation share some winter driving tips:
• Before driving, check tires for sufficient and proper tread and air pressure, check all fluid levels, wiper blades, and be certain all frost and ice is removed from windows.
• Be certain that everyone is properly buckled up before moving the vehicle.
• Reduce speed. Speed limits are based on normal road and weather conditions, not winter road conditions.
• Do not slam on brakes. Apply steady pressure on ABS-equipped vehicles and pump the brakes if necessary on non-ABS vehicles.
• Always comply with all posted chain requirements.
• If your vehicle has snow tires, install and use them between Oct. 1 and April 30.
• Don't be in a hurry to get to your destination; expect delays on the freeway, at gas stations and traffic lights, due to the heavier traffic from holiday shoppers.
• Use extra caution on bridges, ramps, overpasses and shaded areas - they may freeze first.
• If your vehicle begins to skid, steer in the direction of the slide and slowly remove your foot from the accelerator.
• Remember that four-wheel-drive vehicles cannot necessarily turn or stop any better than two-wheel-drive vehicles on snow and ice.
One more thing, said Trooper Chuck Allen, be sure to properly fasten your Christmas tree to your car.
"We do see Christmas trees that fall off or out of vehicles onto the roadway."
With everyone out looking for the just the right gift for that someone special and cars filling up with items at every stop, thieves are hitting the gold mine.
"Shoppers should never place purchased goods within the interior of their vehicle that can be seen from the outside. Even items perceived to be of value left visible in the passenger compartment of an automobile might result in the car being broken into," said Douglas County Sheriff's Sgt. Tom Mezzetta. "Secure your purchased goods in the trunk of your automobile. The safest thing to do is to take those purchases home before venturing out to other stores."
Lt. Ken Sandage of the Carson City Sheriff's Department offers the following tips:
• Lock your car and make sure you have a spare key. If you have a remote, remember the keys will still open the car doors.
• Take only one credit/debit card, if possible. Do not take large amounts of cash, a checkbook or a large handbag. It is best if you carry your credit cards, cash and checks in your front pocket. This will lessen the chance of them being lost or stolen. If your wallet is lost or stolen, report all missing credits cards to your credit card company and notify the Sheriff's Department immediately.
• Be aware of your surroundings. Do not overload yourself with packages. Look around as you walk to the parking lot. Try to park in a well-lit area of the parking lot and stay out of desolate areas.
• When parking your car, be courteous and do not park in fire lanes and handicapped parking spaces. These are violations of state and local law, and you could be cited.
• Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device.
• Avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells or cars with tinted windows.
• Park as close as you can to your destination and take notice of where you parked.
• Never leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside.
• Be sure to locate your keys prior to going to your car.
• Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag and parcels. Do not put them down in a shopping cart or on top of the car in order to open the door.
• Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.
• If you must use an ATM, choose one that is inside a building or in a well-lit location. Withdraw only the amount of cash you need and protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from anyone who is standing near you. Do not throw your ATM receipt away at the ATM location.
• Always carry your Nevada driver's license or identification card along with necessary cash, checks and/or a credit card you expect to use.
• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible.
• 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.
• Teach your child to go to a store clerk and ask for help in case you and your child are separated.
• Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom.
If your home features a functional fireplace, it's a good idea to check it for safety before using it this season.
Some tips to keep fireplaces warm and safe this winter from the Chimney Institute of American:
• Open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned after soot builds up to one-fourth of an inch, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system.
• Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when any appreciable buildup occurs.
• Keep chimney vents and flues free from bird nests or other debris, and have them inspected professionally every three years.
But no matter what you rely on for heating, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is present, according to Underwriters Laboratory.
The following are tips on being safe from carbon monoxide poisoning:
• Have a qualified technician inspect fuel-burning appliances at least once each year. Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, hot water heaters and stoves require yearly maintenance. Over time, components can become damaged or deteriorate. A qualified technician can identify and repair problems with your fuel-burning appliances.
• Be alert to the danger signs that signal a CO problem: streaks of carbon or soot around the service door of your fuel-burning appliances; the absence of a draft in your chimney; excessive rusting on flue pipes or appliance jackets; moisture collecting on the windows and walls of furnace rooms; fallen soot from the fireplace; small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe; damaged or discolored bricks at the top of your chimney and rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from outside your home.
• Be aware that CO poisoning may be the cause of flu-like symptoms such as headaches, tightness of chest, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and breathing difficulties. Because CO poisoning often causes a victim's blood pressure to rise, the victim's skin may take on a pink or red cast.
• Install a CO detector with an audible alarm outside sleeping areas.
• Avoid placing your detector directly on top of or directly across from fuel-burning appliances. These appliances will emit some CO when initially turned-on. Never use charcoal grills inside a home, tent, camper or unventilated garage. Don't leave vehicles running in an enclosed garage, even to "warm up" your car on a cold morning.
• Know how to respond to a CO detector alarm. If your alarm sounds, immediately open windows and doors for ventilation. If anyone in the home is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning - headache, dizziness or other flu-like symptoms - immediately evacuate the house and call 911.
Did you know?
On average, real and artificial Christmas trees are the first items ignited in an estimated 210 home fires annually.
- National Fire Protection statistics
Did you know?
Each year holiday decorations and Christmas trees account for almost 2,000 fires and cause more than $41 million in property damage,
Did you know?
In 2006, there were five fatalities and 490 vehicle crashes in Nevada attributable to unsafe driving behaviors in snow and ice, such as driving too fast for conditions, following too closely, failing to maintain a lane and overcorrecting.
- Nevada Department of Transportation
Did you know?
Each year, more than 10,000 Americans are temporarily or permanently disabled by accidental exposure to carbon monoxide.
- Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority
Did you know?
In 2005 in Carson City there were 1,449 reports of property theft, to include items stolen in vehicle burglaries.
- State of Nevada Uniform Crime Reports