Safety saves celebration

It's a dangerous world out there, even during the holidays.


Many families are often absorbed in tasks such as shopping and cooking during the holiday season, but local officials warn that it's no time to be careless.

Richmond County Fire Marshal G.B. Hannan warned that dry Christmas trees, overloaded electrical outlets and other decorations can increase the chances of a fire during the holidays. He said the department has seen many fires caused by small space heaters in the past few weeks and that many incidents occur when people leave their tree lights on for too long.

"Make sure that you turn out all lights when you go to bed or leave the house," he said. "Those lights could short out and catch fire."

At Medical College of Georgia Hospital's emergency room during the holidays, patients are usually treated for things such as suicides and domestic violence incidents, according to MCG spokeswoman Denise Parrish.

Hunting accidents and even those who overeat are also common, she said.

Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Tony Walden said shoppers should not make themselves targets for thieves by leaving their purses, wallets or presents visible in their vehicles. Purse-snatchings rise during the holidays, so shoppers should be wary of their surroundings and if they can, carry just a card or cash.

"Try to take some safety measure not to advertise what you just got because you may not have it for very long," Lt. Walden said.

He said many burglaries occur after Christmas, as people leave boxes for their new flat-screen TVs or laptop computers on the curb. Protect yourself by folding up the box and placing it in a trash bag, he said.

"Just because you're in the Christmas mood, it doesn't mean everybody else is," Lt. Walden said. "They may be in the mood but it's not for buying, it's for stealing."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or


CHRISTMAS TREES: Keep all trees away from heat sources. Keep trees watered and do not wait to discard dry trees -- they can be serious fire hazards.

LIGHTS: Use only lights that have fuses, and check each one for broken parts. Hang the lights out of the reach of children.

DECORATIONS: Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant materials to trim the tree. Keep candles away from the tree.


- When shopping, do not leave packages or valuables in your car where thieves can see them.

- Dispose of boxes and packaging in trash bags. Do not leave them on the curb; it advertises your purchases to would-be burglars.

- Purse-snatchings rise during the holidays. Keep your purse close to your body while walking, or leave it at home.

- In parking lots, be mindful of your surroundings as you enter and exit your vehicle.

Source: Richmond County Fire Chief G.B. Hannan, Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Tony Walden