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December Chief's Concerns

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kellie Vinson, 169th Medical Group at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, Sept. 5, 2013.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kellie Vinson, 169th Medical Group at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, Sept. 5, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Stay Safe during the Holidays!

The holiday season is always a special time of year. People are busy buying gifts, planning parties, and visiting friends and family. Unfortunately, it is also a time when criminals are on the lookout for easy targets. During this hectic time, people often become careless and vulnerable to theft and other hazardous conditions.

In general, always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid driving alone or at night. If you must, park in a well-lighted area and avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells or cars with tinted windows. Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or out of view. Always have your keys ready and when leaving a store, keep a secure hold on your handbag and parcels. Do not place them on top of the car when opening the car door.

Remember to check for locked doors and windows when you leave the house. Make the house look occupied by leaving on a radio or television. Take note it is common for criminals to take advantage of the generosity of people during the holiday season by soliciting donations door-to-door for charitable causes or posing as couriers delivering gifts.

Many decorative plants and decorations are considered potentially poisonous and should be kept out of reach of children and pets. Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, Jerusalem cherry plants, and others are commonly used as decorations during the holidays. Symptoms of plant poisoning can include rashes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect that your child or pet has ingested any part of a plant, immediately call your doctor or the National Poison Center: (800) 222-1222. "Bubble lights" containing methylene chloride can be poisonous if the fluid from more than one light (even if labeled nontoxic) is swallowed. In addition, snow sprays may be harmful if the aerosol propellants are used improperly.

Avoid fires by being fire smart. When setting up a Christmas tree or other holiday display, make sure doors and passageways are clear inside your home. If you use lights on your Christmas tree ensure the wiring is not damaged or frayed. Keep your tree secured in a sturdy stand so that it doesn't tip over (or isn't knocked over by children or pets) and keep away from all heat sources such as electrical outlets, radiators and portable space heaters. If you purchase an artificial tree, ensure that it is labeled "fire-retardant". Unplug all lights, both indoor and outdoor, and extinguish all candles nightly before you go to bed.

Avoid using real candles on a tree because if the needles are dry they can easily catch fire. Never leave the room with single candles or menorah candles burning -- it only takes a minute for a spark from a candle to burst into flames. Keep lit candles away from windowsills and mantles and use only flame-retardant decorations when decking your halls. Don't overload indoor or outdoor electrical outlets.

Have your fireplace inspected before you light your first fire of the season. A chimney professional can clean your fireplace and ensure that it is safe to use. You can protect your family by using a sturdy fireplace screen when burning fires. Never place wrapping paper in your fireplace.

Practice fire safety, have a family emergency plan in the event of a fire, and check smoke detectors before you put up your holiday decorations. These steps will ensure that your family will be able to celebrate many holiday seasons to come.

In closing, I wish you and your family a happy, festive and safe holiday season!!!!