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Franklin County officials share tips to stay safe during holidays

While the holidays are some of the most joyful times, they can also be one of the most dangerous times, with an increase in house fires and robberies across the country.

To help people keep people aware of safety issues, several local officials noted some of the most common problems they see during the holiday season and how to stay safe.

“A lot of times things like this are just things people don’t think of until it is too late,” said Russellville Fire Marshal Justin Green. “A lot of the times you don’t know how underprepared you are until something happens.”

Green said one of the most common causes of house fires during the holidays involves cooking, particularly with holiday foods.

“Make sure you fry turkeys outside, and make sure they are not frozen,” Green said. “Also make sure you have an extinguisher that you know how to use with you at all times.”

Green said it is critical to never leave the kitchen unattended while cooking, and make sure children are aware of fire safety measures, too.

Make sure to keep all loose fabrics, including sweaters, towels and curtains, away from stove eyes. Try to smother any kitchen fires with pot lids.

Green said another common problem around the holidays people need to be aware of is safety with Christmas decorations.

“Please do not use a real tree,” Green said. “Those things can go up in flames quick. Just use an artificial one.”

Green said anyone who does choose to use a real Christmas tree needs to water it constantly and check the limbs every day to make sure they are not drying out.

Green said if any of the tree’s needles start falling off, it is time to toss it because the tree is not retaining adequate moisture.

“The smallest spark can start a Christmas tree fire, and those things go up in a hurry,” Green said.

Green said it is also important to use surge protectors and not use old extension cords. Set lights to a timer so they do not have to be plugged in each night.

Green said when in doubt, the most important tip is to call the fire department as soon as a fire starts.

“It takes those trucks a minute to get going,” Green said. “You’d much rather us be in route and get turned around than realize you need us too late.”

It is also important around the holidays to be aware of surroundings and be watchful for increased cases of theft.

Red Bay Police Chief Jana Jackson said this time of year usually brings an increase in shoplifting and various thefts, especially with people leaving their homes unattended for various amounts of time during the holidays.

“Make sure that you call in anything suspicious,” Jackson said. “We always watch out more for those crimes around this time of year.”

It is also important to make sure to do everything possible to limit being a target for theft, such as locking doors and making sure everything locks properly.

“Make sure to hide your valuables and be smart about things,” said Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett. “Know your surroundings whenever you are walking into an area, and make sure you take necessary precautions.”

Hargett also urged people to avoid posting too much information on social media about their location.

“You don’t want to make yourself a target for a potential burglary,” Hargett said.

Hargett said if someone is going to be out of town for an extended period of time, he recommends having family members and neighbors periodically check on the house to make sure everything is OK.

Jackson said she also recommends calling the station and letting officers know what days the house will be unattended so an extra patrol car can keep an eye out.

“We just want everyone to stay safe, and that means staying aware,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately some people try to take advantage of the holiday season, so there are some things we have to stay extra aware of.”