Keeping your home safe during the holidays

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John Drengenberg from Underwriters Laboratory stopped by ABC7 on Monday with some timely advice to help you keep your home and family safe during the holidays. (WLS)

Now that the tree has been in the home for a few weeks, it could be getting dry and brittle that could be putting it at a higher risk of fire. So what should you do right now to keep your family safe?

John Drengenberg from Underwriters Laboratory stopped by ABC7 on Monday with some timely advice!
Last-minute holiday shopping/payments security

- Online: When you get to the point of putting in your credit card information, your browser will tell if you've entered a secure part of the website. Look for a picture of a lock in the address bar at the top of the page; the website should start with "HTTPS" instead of "HTTP." Avoid sites that don't offer secure connections for making transactions. Try to stick to well-known online vendors and chain stores you recognize. If the site sends you to a third-party "marketplace" seller, read the shipping and return terms carefully.
- In store: One way to help prevent this is to consider purchasing an RFID wallet-blocking card. This will shield your credit cards from the radio frequency used to obtain information through your wallet or purse. Experts recommend using a credit card vs. a debit card. Debit cards require inputting your personal PIN with every transaction, something that can make your information more susceptible to theft. Use an EMV chip-enabled card to add another layer of security to your purchases..
- Mobile: It's easy for hackers to get to you when you're using public Wi-Fi. They can sniff out your passwords (banking, credit card, email) or even install malicious software on your machine so they can grab the info later. You won't notice anything odd until it's too late.

Lithium ion battery safety for gadget holiday gifts
- Tips Prior to Purchasing: Don't purchase knock-off products - many products that have experienced explosions and malfunctions have been made in unregulated factories in China. Earlier this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized a record amount of hoverboards with fake batteries or other counterfeit marks. Select a product that is UL-certified. Manufacturers that have taken precautions to ensure their lithium-ion-charged products meet the standards to prevent overheating and catching fire will have the UL mark on them.
- Safety Recommendations for Products in Use: When repeatedly dropped, bent or squished, these batteries have the potential to short circuit, overheat and potentially malfunction. Avoid dropping your smartphone or wearable as much as possible. If you do drop your product, talk to the manufacturer and consider swapping it out for a new one.

- What to Keep in Mind While Charging Your Device: After using your hoverboard, give it time to cool off before charging it. Don't leave your device unattended while charging it - this goes for hoverboards, laptops and smartphones. Do not overcharge. Follow the manufacturer's recommended charging times. Use only the charger that comes with the device, and unplug power cords when not in use.

Holiday home management to reduce the risk of fire
- Trees that have dry needles burn faster. Keep the real tree base filled with water at all times, as it reduces the risk of fire. Check daily to ensure there is enough water in the base. (related broll here)
- Candles are another popular seasonal item. Keep them away from items that easily catch fire, such as decorations, window treatments and paper. However, candles can also affect the air we breathe, so when shopping for candles, look for ones that are unscented. Or, consider using LED candles, which have less risk - both in keeping air pollutants out of your home and reducing the risk that something could catch fire.
- To quote "Twas the Night Before Christmas," make sure "the stockings are hung by the chimney with care!" To do this: Never hang stockings in front of a burning fire. Stockings can be hung when the fire is not lit, but should be moved to another location when the fireplace is in use. When decorating your fireplace mantel, be sure to keep combustible materials such as greenery or ribbons away from any possible spark or flame. Also, never burn used wrapping paper in the fireplace as it may cause intense flash fires. Consider recycling instead.
- If you're preparing a big holiday meal, never leave ovens or stoves unattended for long periods of time. If you do need to walk away, take your oven mitt with you - this is a good reminder that you have something on the stove or in the oven, and need to return soon. Designate the area around the stove as a "kid-free zone" and be sure to keep dishtowels and other things that can burn away from the stove. When cooking, it's also a good idea to turn the handles of pots inward in case small kids do enter the kid-free zone and reach for the handles. Adults are also often injured by spilling hot food because of coming in contact with handles hanging over the edge of the stove.
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