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Prioritize emergency preparedness at home in the new year

At the end of the year, families and friends often gather for meals and holiday celebrations. Show them your love by helping them stay safe and prepare for the new year.

The following safety tips emphasize the importance of prevention and planning.

Candles, decorations, extension cords

Many holiday celebrations and meals involve candles. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 56 percent of December home decoration fires were started by candles, and the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Before you light candles, make sure the surrounding area is clear of items that can catch fire. Watch out for loose clothing, hair, curtains and holiday decorations. Be sure that you never leave candles unattended, and always supervise children near candles.

As for extension cords:

• Make sure your extension cord or temporary power strip is marked for the way you want to use it – indoor or outdoor use – and the correct rating for what you want to plug in.

• Make sure each extension cord is plugged into its own electrical outlet.

• Check to make sure the extension cord is still in good condition – never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way.

• Remember, electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 43 percent of home Christmas tree fires.

For additional electrical safety tips, visit

New year, new safety strategies

The new year is the ideal time to make resolutions to improve your family emergency preparedness. While gathered with family over the holidays, discuss the following safety strategies.

• Family emergency communications plan. Pick a friend or family member who lives out of the area just in case family members can’t reach one another during an emergency and need a message relay.

• Evacuation routes and family meeting points. Map out several evacuation routes away from home. Discuss where in your neighborhood you’d meet in an emergency, and pick a couple of locations outside of the neighborhood as well.

• “Go bag.” Prepare a bag with basic supplies, medications, important papers and communication devices you would grab in an evacuation. For a list of what to include, visit

• Emergency supplies. Check your household emergency supply kit. Update your food, water and medication supplies if needed – and don’t forget your pets.

• Helpful app. Download the free ReadySCC app to help record information so that it’s all in your phone in case you need it.

Los Altos resources

Living in Los Altos, we benefit from the hard work of our emergency preparedness volunteers, city staff and Santa Clara County Fire Department to help us get ready.

With increased awareness on safety and preparedness, you can enjoy a safe and happy holiday season and new year.

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit

Ann Hepenstal is the community emergency preparedness coordinator for the city of Los Altos.

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