Cherokee officials focus on holiday safety
by Michelle Babcock
December 18, 2013 11:45 PM | 1206 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Candles, Christmas trees and fireplaces are all commonly used during the holidays, along with online shopping, and local officials are offering some tips to help residents prevent fires and avoid scams as they celebrate the season.

Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Tim Cavender offered some advice when it comes to one of the most popular holiday decorations.

Cavender said when choosing lights to decorate a Christmas tree, it’s important to use newer lights.

“Replace older style light bulb type lights. These light bulbs produce too much heat and can cause various problems,” he said in a news release. “When buying new lights, buy low-heat mini-lights. These lights are much safer.”

Cavender said old lights may be a fire hazard, and can be dangerous to have around children.

“If any of your lights are too hot to handle, you run the risk of someone, especially a child, touching the lights and burning their hands,” he said.

CEO and president of the Atlanta Better Business Bureau, Fred Elsberry, said one important thing is to keep Christmas trees away from flames.

“Don’t put your Christmas tree next to your fireplace because any spark out of there can cause a problem,” he said.

Candles should never be lit on, or near, a tree, Elsberry said.

Cavender agreed, and said people should blow candles out if they are leaving a room or going to bed. He said it’s also important to use flame-resistant materials to decorate your tree.

“Artificial trees should be made of flame resistant materials, and lights should never be used on trees with metal frames. Never leave the lights on when leaving the house or when going to bed,” Cavender said. “If you do burn candles, make sure that you use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.”

Children sometimes like to play with ornaments, and Elsberry said it’s a smart idea to keep breakable items out of reach.

“One of the best things you can do is be sure any breakable ornaments on the tree are not within reach of children,” he said.

Cavender also said fireplaces and heaters should also be used with caution.

“Have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary,” he said. “Place space heaters, candles and other heat sources at least 3 feet away from all potentially flammable materials such as bedding, furniture and drapes.”

Cavender warned people not to burn gift wrap, paper decorations or dry greenery in the fireplace.

“They could ignite suddenly, resulting in a flash fire,” he said.

Online Christmas shopping can also pose a risk during the holiday season, Elsberry said. With ever-increasing computer usage has come the possibility of falling victim to email and online scams or frauds, he said.

Common Christmas scams and frauds can be anything from an e-card with malware or viruses to fake delivery emails from shipping companies, like Fed Ex or UPS Inc., Elsberry said.

“Particularly as people get more and more active on social media, they’re going to find a lot of these scams popping up to them,” Elsberry said.

Caution and suspicion can help email and Internet users avoid the Christmas scams, Elsberry said.

“Update your computer’s virus protection program, because there are two elements there,” Elsberry said. “You need to be sure that your computer is up to date to catch viruses, and also be sure that the website you’re working with are ones that are secure websites. We know they’re secure if the address starts with ‘https’ because the ‘s’ at the end of it means it’s secure.”

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