SF police, fire officials offer holiday safety tips

(S.F. Examiner file photo)

Make safety a priority in San Francisco this holiday season.

That’s the holiday message delivered Monday from the San Francisco police and fire departments and the California Highway Patrol. Each department advised the public of seasonal hazards to be wary of.

Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin said the Police Department has increased foot patrols and plainclothes officers in shopping areas to help keep the public safe. He also emphasized what shoppers can do to keep themselves safe.

“Stay alert while using electronic devices,” Chaplin said. “It’s easy to get distracted by smartphones, especially when you’ve got an armful of packages.”

He urged people to use parking lots staffed by attendants, to leave nothing visible in parked cars and to have their keys in their hands to make a quick entry in their vehicles. If people see something they should say something to either police or mall security.

Chaplin also encouraged the public to keep their wallets in a hard-to-reach spot and carry only cash and credit cards for their immediate shopping needs. However, if someone demands a wallet or purse, he advised victims to surrender them to protect their personal safety. He said a full list of police safety tips was available at www.sanfranciscopolice.org.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White noted there are some hazards that peak during the holidays like cooking and electrical fires as well as fires from candles left unattended. She said people should never leave stoves or flame candles unattended especially in the presence of children or a pet.

She cautioned people to pay particular attention to electrical devices like heaters, holiday lights, extension cords and to avoid overloading electrical circuits. People should also hydrate their live trees and make sure to turn off holiday lights before going to bed.

One in every three Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems, while one in four tree fires are caused by a heat source being too close to the tree. Nearly half of all decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source.

Candles start two of every five home decoration fires, and cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. More information on reducing fire hazards can be found at www.sf-fire.org.

“If something doesn’t look right whether it be law-enforcement related or occupancy related, certainly make use of 311.” Hayes-White said. “If it seems to be an emergency that needs immediate response, certainly don’t hesitate to call 911.”

She urged people to properly dispose of their trees by using Recology’s post-holiday tree program.

California Highway Patrol Cmdr. Christopher Sherry said officers will be looking specifically for intoxicated and distracted drivers as well as those who are not wearing seatbelts. He commented that the holiday season is a time of increased highway activity and increased driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

“Driving under the influence is not only pertaining to alcohol,” Sherry said. “Driving under the influence of marijuana, prescription drugs or other drugs is illegal.”

He warned that impaired drivers who risk injuring or killing other people could face jail time and expensive fines. The California HIghway Patrol’s goal is to deter unsafe behavior, help disabled motorists and take enforcement actions that will result in the roadways being safer for everyone.

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