The kids are in the living room, staring at the wrapped presents under the tree.
Dad’s in the kitchen, getting the Christmas turkey ready for the oven. And Mom’s outside on the ladder, fixing that string of lights on the fritz.
It’s one possible scene this holiday season or any other one, but it’s also one that carries the traditional warnings, experts say, to ensure the holiday season is safe from accidents, incidents and illnesses.
Those warnings and advisories, many of them common sense, stretch from those first shopping days and digging out the Christmas lights to making the holiday dinner and keeping the Christmas tree safe from fire and presents safe from theft.
Deputy Schenectady Fire Chief Scott Doherty offered a long list of safety tips, saying he had a million of them.
His list started with the holiday lighting, making sure it was not near combustible materials, including decorations.
Digging the lights out of the attic, those preparing for the holiday revelry should make sure to inspect them, replacing any damaged items before plugging them in. Once they’re ready, they should be spread out, avoiding overloading one extension cord.
“It can really act to overload the extension cord itself and cause a fire,” Doherty said.
Outdoor lights should also be for the outdoors, rated for the elements and approved by Underwriter’s Laboratory. Outlets with ground fault interrupters, similar to ones used in bathrooms, should be used, ensuring any moisture doesn’t short out the lights and cause a fire.
Another tip that could save money, and the house: Turn off the lights after bedtime. With no one awake, no one would be around to catch overheating lights.
Then there’s the common Christmas tree. Doherty suggested when purchasing a live tree, make sure it’s fresh, with green needles that are hard to pull off. The needles also should bend, not break.
The tree should be placed away from heat sources and traffic ways. The base should be continually filled with water, and the base sturdy enough to keep the tree upright.
Ornaments with small pieces should be placed up and out of the reach of youngsters, older ornaments should also be placed up, to avoid possible lead paint contamination with young children.
Careful when cooking
Another fire hazard: holiday cooking. Doherty said cooks shouldn’t be distracted when cooking hot items, to ensure those don’t catch fire.
Cooking also has other dangers, said David Wixted, an assistant professor with the Schenectady County Community College culinary arts program. Holiday turkeys, Wixted said, should be cooked to 165 degrees to kill any salmonella. The bird’s temperature should be read using a probe thermometer in the thigh area, making sure not to touch bone, which can throw off the reading.
Actually stuffing the turkey should also be avoided, Wixted said, because it takes longer to heat the cavity and heat the meat, causing problems ensuring the meat is fully cooked.
When preparing the turkey, or other meats, sanitation is key, Wixted said.
The turkey should be defrosted in the refrigerator, a process that takes about 3 to 4 days.
Hands should be washed after touching raw turkey. The sink and counter top should also be sanitized to ensure any salmonella isn’t transferred to other items.
The risk is salmonella poisoning, something that takes 10 to 12 hours to develop and can cause vomiting and illness for 3 or 4 days.
“That’s going to ruin your whole weekend at that point,” Wixted said.
Another thing that could ruin the holiday is having cherished, long-sought presents stolen. Schenectady police Lt. Mark McCracken offered advice for both online and store shoppers.
Those shopping online for goods should know that if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
Those out shopping shouldn’t carry large amounts of cash, or at least don’t make it known.
Shopping bags should be kept in the shoppers’ control and out of sight. They shouldn’t be left in cars overnight.
Then standard security measures should be followed at home, including ensuring doors are locked.
And watch for potential burglars. Sometimes they simply ring the door bell to find out if someone’s home. When someone is, they can give a quick excuse and leave.
If something doesn’t seem right, McCracken said residents should contact authorities.