Home fire safety and anti-crime tips were on the agenda for Tuesday’s Rise and Shine Breakfast, hosted by the Polk County Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber members joined guests from the local business community and public sector for the session, which began at 8 a.m. at the Cedartown Career Center, Georgia Department of Labor office at 262 N. Park Blvd., Cedartown.
Cedartown Fire and Rescue Chief Sammy Stephens gave a brief presentation about common holiday season fire risks and other safety practices. Christmas tree fires remain a concern, with the greatest risk being too-dry, real trees.
“A lot of people like a live tree. So do I,” Stephens said. “Some places, they may have cut it two weeks before you get it. Some places even paint it green. If you see that it’s been painted, I would go somewhere else.”
Live trees can be safe as long as they are kept watered, he said. If a tree dries out to the point that it is losing its color and needles are falling off, it is not safe to have in the house, he said.
When a live tree is brought home, the trunk should be cut fresh, and the tree should be mounted in a stand that holds water. The water dish should be refilled over the season to keep the tree moist.
Stephens also discussed the following safety tips:
-- Wiring, such as Christmas tree lights and outdoor lights, should be inspected closely before being used. If copper wire is showing through the insulation, don’t take a chance. Throw it away, Stephens said.
-- Electrical fires from overloaded wiring are a known Christmas hazard. Instead of trying to hook up all the lights to one outlet, stretch out the electrical load and plug them into separate circuits, he said.
-- Electrical extension cords run beneath carpets are also a fire hazard. The cords can be damaged from people walking on them, and a short-circuit can ignite the carpet and furnishings.
-- Real candles seem to become more popular around Christmas. But any open flame carries a risk, he said. Christmas wrapping paper and open flames are an especially dangerous combination.
-- Wood fires in old fireplaces and wood stoves that have not been properly inspected are another concern as the weather cools, Stephens said.
After Stephens spoke, Cedartown City Manager Robbie Rokovitz gave a presentation about crime prevention. Rokovitz is a former police officer and his parents both were employed as police officers. In addition, he has served as a criminal justice instructor at the college level.
Rokovitz reminded participants at Tuesday’s breakfast to be aware of their surroundings when shopping for Christmas presents. Some suggestions:
-- Shop in pairs. A lone shopper returning to a car at night, loaded with presents, is a more tempting target than two or more people together.
-- Have car keys ready before you reach your vehicle, so you’re not standing there fumbling for keys.
-- Try to park in a publicly visible spot near a source of light.
-- Don’t be afraid to ask a store employee, store manager or security guard to walk you to your vehicle if you have a lot of expensive gifts that will attract attention.
-- Be aware that criminals may be watching vehicles in parking lots. Criminals may notice if you carry a load of items from a store, put them in your vehicle, and then go back inside or to another store in the same shopping center, Rokovitz said.
He gave an example of someone buying several electronic gadgets at a Best Buy store, then getting into their vehicle and driving to a clothing store. Consumer electronics such as video game consoles, cameras and flat panel televisions are popular theft targets. Some of these criminals will be prepared and have the tools needed to force open a trunk or break into a vehicle.
“You could be followed,” Rokovitz said. “They know you’re going to be in there (clothing store) for a long time.”