THE December holidays are a time to rest and recharge after a busy year. One of South Africa’s largest armed response companies says it is important not to neglect personal safety during this period, especially as it is also a busy time of year for opportunistic criminals.“We all deserve the time to relax with our friends and families. If we remember a few basic safety measures, we can make a big difference towards enjoying this time of year in safety,” says Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.The first and most important step to take, she says, is to regularly test your alarm, to ensure that it is in good working order. It is also a good idea to let your security company know what your holiday plans are, and how best to get in touch with you in the event of an emergency.“Your security company must be able to get hold of you in case of any emergency. If you are away abroad or somewhere with no cellphone reception, then they need to know who is looking after your property while you are on holiday,” says Hattingh.Hattingh offers some additional security tips for holiday makers to make sure their residential property is protected and safe:• Cut back any bushes or trees that may offer easy access over walls or gates to your property, or provide places for criminals to hide.• Inform your neighbours and neighbourhood watch of your holiday plans so that they can keep an eye on your property.• If hiring a house-sitter, ensure that you teach him/her how to use your alarm correctly.• If you don’t have a house-sitter, ask a neighbour or a friend to turn on lights occasionally so that there is a sense that someone is around. If this is not possible, consider putting your outside lights on a timer.• Double check that you have locked and secured all windows and doors before leaving home.• Turn off your geyser and any unnecessary electrical appliances so you can save on electricity and be environmentally friendly.“We also recommend that people be careful and discreet about packing for a long journey and to not give any indication that your home might be unattended for an extended period of time,” adds Hattingh. What should parents do if they aren’t able to get time off work, and their children are potentially alone at home during the holidays?“Many parents work through the school holidays so kids are looked after by a family member or domestic worker or simply stay at home by themselves. Whatever your situation is, kids can have a great holiday while staying safe by following some simple advice,” says Hattingh.She offers these pointers for parents:• Teach children to keep doors locked and to not let anybody in through the gate without checking with their parents.• If there is an alarm system, teach them how to activate and de-activate it and how and when to use panic buttons.• Show them where the list of emergency contacts is — including the 10111 number as well as a nearby neighbour — and explain when and how to use these numbers.• If your children have access to the Internet and social media while alone at home, make sure that they keep privacy settings as high as possible.• Teach them not to befriend people they don’t know and not to meet up with people they’ve met online. Your child should always tell you if an online contact they have never met suggests they meet up. Remember that not everyone online is who they say they are.• If a child sees something online that makes them feel uncomfortable, unsafe or worried they should leave the website, turn off their computer and tell someone immediately.“If you’ve arranged an outing for your kids, make sure that they are prepared and understand what they are and aren’t allowed to do,” she adds.• If they are heading to malls or restaurants, teach children that they need to look after their belongings and to look out for each other.• They also need to be clear on the transport arrangements and never go anywhere with a stranger. Tell them to find a security guard in the mall if they are scared or unsure of what to do.• Teach then that if they get separated from parents or guardians in the shops or mall to go to the nearest sales person or uniformed security officer and ask for help.• Teach them to always walk or play with at least one other person.• Teach them to always walk along streets they know and never take shortcuts through bushes or empty areas.In conclusion, Hattingh says the key thing to remember is to make sure everyone is prepared and that they know exactly what to do in the case of an emergency.“It doesn’t matter if you are relaxing at home or next to the ocean these holidays, if something were to happen to you or a loved one, do you know who to contact for emergency assistance? “If your children are unattended, do they know how to look out for themselves? And, is your home security system working properly? “If you are able to answer these questions, you will be well on your way towards enjoying a safe and relaxing festive season holiday,” says Hattingh. — Supplied.