Fire, police offer tips on being safe during holidays

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - With the holiday season in full force, Sherman Tinnell thought it would be a good idea to use the time at his monthly Mayor's Night In to talk about safety in the community.

And he brought along experts from the fire and police departments to share their advice.

Johnny Smothers, a veteran police officer in Shepherdsville, said there are many people during the holidays looking to steal more than holiday cheer from others.

The city's Neighborhood Watch coordinator said that many of his tips deal with common sense that should be used throughout the year. However, the reports of thefts increase during the holiday season.

In many cases, Smothers said women who are shopping alone are targeted by thieves.

When shopping, Smothers said it would be best if you shopped in groups. Parking close to stores and under good lighting are also good safety tips to follow.

If you are shopping and put packages in the vehicle, Smothers said don't place them in the back seat where they can be seen. Instead, he said, they should be placed in a locked trunk.

Even putting a cover or blanket over them in the back seat will let robbers know there is something in the car.

"If they don't see it, they can't take it," said Smothers.

When leaving a store and going through the parking lot, Smothers said you should be observant and watch your surroundings. Also, he said you should look inside your vehicle before entering.

No matter the location of the vehicle, Smothers said people need to get into the habit of locking them. A number of break-ins occur throughout the year in vehicles that aren't locked.

When driving, Smothers said there is usually a lot of traffic. The number of road rage incidents continues to rise.

He advised those in attendance to wear seat belts. No only is it a law but it is also for the safety of those in the vehicle.

If you are visiting an ATM machine, watch around you to make sure no one is approaching.

And Smothers said having an inventory of items in your home is important to recovery if something is stolen. He didn't advise engraving items with a Social Security number because that could lead to identity theft issues. But he did endorse engraving items with some recognizable code or symbol.

As the city's crime prevention coordinator, Smothers said the police could speak to Block Watch groups or to civic groups. If anyone wants to set up a Block Watch program, Smothers said they should call the police department.

Most of the tips are useful throughout the year, said Smothers.

Fire chief Brad Whittaker said many of his tips are also good throughout the year. However, the calls across the country will dramatically increase from Dec. 24-26.

Most of those will deal with holiday decorations.

Like Smothers, Whittaker said his safety tips were common sense.

Anyone with live Christmas trees must make sure they are watered constantly and do not stay in the home too long. They should be kept away from heat sources and lights should be turned off if no one is home.

Discarded trees should not be burned in the fireplace. Instead, Whittaker said, they should be recycled or taken away by garbage companies.

When putting up the holiday lights, Whittaker said you should look for bad wiring or defective sockets. He said you shouldn't overload electrical outlets and not string too many strands of lights together.

He said wrapping paper shouldn't be thrown into the fireplace for disposal.

If you are looking for a Christmas gift, Whittaker said every home should have at least one smoke detector on each level. He said the batteries need to be checked at least twice a year.

He said practicing an escape plan in case of a fire is also a good idea.

Having an ABC fire extinguisher in the home is also good. However, Whittaker said residents shouldn't try to battle a fire without calling 911 first.

Whittaker played a video on the dangers of turkey fryers. The cooking devices are not approved by UL and Whittaker said they should be used outside on a stable surface away from the house.

David Moats, the DARE officer, got to speak a few minutes about his school program. The 10-week is divided into three phases, culminating with a graduation ceremony. He will teach fifth-graders at St. Aloysius, Roby, Cedar Grove and Shepherdsville Elementary schools.

The next Mayor's Night In is planned for Monday, Dec. 17. However, Tinnell said those interested might assemble and then go do some caroling at a local nursing home.