The holiday season is here. For many that means traveling, shopping and celebrating – all of which can pose certain safety issues. Here’s a rundown of holiday safety tips, and info about city services offered over the winter holidays:
Auto-Burglary Awareness Program
In Texas, a vehicle is broken into every 2.5 minutes, and auto-burglaries escalate during the holiday season. With the holiday season upon us, local law enforcement is raising awareness over auto burglaries.
The Austin Police Department's Auto Theft Interdiction Project suggests that you take the following actions to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of auto burglary:
- Lock your car and take your keys
- Park in well-lit areas
- Don’t leave valuables in plain view
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings
- Avoid carrying a large amount of cash or credit cards
Increased DWI Patrols
The Texas Department of Public Safety is stepping up traffic enforcement. Officers will increase DWI patrols over a 21-day period that stretches through Christmas and the New Year. Between Dec. 13 and Jan. 2, troopers are focusing on DWI patrols in high-risk locations, at times when alcohol-related accidents are most prevalent.
DPS offers the following additional tips for safe travel during the holidays:
- Don't drink and drive. Chose a designated driver or find an alternate source of transport.
- Eliminate distractions (including cell phones).
- Buckle up – it's the law.
- Slow down – especially in bad weather, construction areas and heavy traffic.
- Slow down or move over for police, fire, EMS and Texas Department of Transportation vehicles and tow trucks that are stopped on the side of the road with emergency lights activated – it's the law.
- Don't drive fatigued.
- Drive defensively, as holiday travel may present additional challenges.
- Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained before your trip begins.
Home Fire Prevention Program
Cooking fires are one of the leading causes of home fires. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving are the top three days for cooking fires.
To help thwart fires, the American Red Cross is urging residents to take extra precautions with heating, cooking and decorating this holiday season.
- Test your smoke alarms.
- Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.
- Enforce a “kid-free zone” in the cooking area and make children stay at least three feet away from the stove.
- Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove, oven or any appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
- Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
- Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen. Contact the local fire department to receive training on the proper use of extinguishers.
- Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Keep children, pets and decorations away from lit candles.
- Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect. Some strings of lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
- Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
- Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
- Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
- If you use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
- Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
- Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
If you want to plan ahead, here is a list what is closed in Austin over the holidays.
- All City of Austin administrative offices and other municipal facilities will be closed Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1.
- Trash, recycling and yard trimming pickup scheduled for Dec. 25-27 and Jan. 1-3 will be picked up a day late. The Household Hazardous Waster facility will be closed Dec. 23-28 and Jan. 1.
- Austin Public Library will be closed December 24-25. It will close early on Dec. 31 and remain closed Jan. 1.
- All cultural centers and city-managed museums will be closed Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1
- Parks and Recreation and senior centers will be closed Dec. 24-25 as well as Jan. 1.
- The Austin Nature and Science Center, Sheffield Education Center/Splash and Zilker Botanical Garden are all closed Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1.
- The Austin Animal Care Center will close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 24 and remain closed Dec. 25. The center will also close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31 and be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 1.
- If you need to get around town, Capital Metro will keep its normal offer Sunday level service on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.