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Festive safety guide: How to keep yourself, your valuables, loved ones and pets safe these holidays

Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Dec 19, 2021

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Johannesburg - Whether you are travelling this festive season or enjoying some much deserved leisure time at home, here are some expert tips to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Curb the spread of Covid-19

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As the country is experiencing the fourth wave of the novel coronavirus infections, health authorities have pleaded with the nation to do all they can to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from the deadly virus.

A reminder on how to avoid getting infected:

- Abide continuously by non-pharmaceutical prevention measures such as regular hand-washing and sanitising, practising social distancing and wearing a mask when out in public.

- Clean frequently-touched surfaces such as counters, desks, door handles and light switches regularly.

- Keep your social gatherings to immediate family if possible or keep them as small as you can.

- Where possible, congregate outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms.

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- Avoid crowded areas such as malls, beaches, restaurants and other entertainment venues.

- Spend some time outdoors and get some Vitamin D.

- Practise a healthy lifestyle by getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and drinking enough water.

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Face masks are one of the measure to combat Covid-19. File image.

Sexual abuse safety tips for parents and children

The Teddy Bear Foundation, a non-profit organisation which assists abused children, has offered the following advice to parents to protecting their children.

- Parents should adjust the tone of their voice to be as calm as possible when discussing the issue with children so as to alert but not alarm them.

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- Consider the age of a child when providing information. Younger children will benefit from role-play and repeated conversations. Older children can discuss current events or real situations to educate them about danger.

- Teach children not to help strangers, accept gifts or sweets from people they don’t know or get into a stranger’s car

- Children should not be using public transport without adult supervision.

- Sleepovers at relatives or family friends must be strictly supervised and children must be prepared before they go. If anyone touches them inappropriately, they need to contact you or another responsible adult. Provide the children with contact details of trusted support that they may contact if they require any assistance, in the event that parents are away from home or unavailable.

- Be wary of any adult that pays too much attention to your child.

- Children should not be sent alone to shops or through deserted areas.

- Parents should be aware of what their children are watching or hearing and provide them with a platform for discussion. They also need to be aware of who their children have contact with on the Internet.

If children could go missing in shopping centres, on holiday and from home.

If you fear they are missing, take these steps:

- Call the police immediately – the first hour is critical.

- Remember what they are wearing.

- Remember where they have been or talked about going – what were their movements over the last 48 hours?

- Did they mention any problems or anxieties?

- Call theircellphone if they have one – even if they do not answer, its location can be traced by the police and security companies.

- Check your child’s recent Internet links.

- Contact their friends, school, hospital, youth club etc.

- Avoid self-criticism and analysis – focus on finding your child.

A group of children attending a therapy session at the Teddy Bear Foundation, a specialised medical facility for children who have been abused or neglected, run by a team of paediatricians, doctors , forensic nurses , social workers and volunteers. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

Caring for your pet

Whether you’re heading down to the coast, taking a bush break or staying at home, global animal health company, Zoetis South Africa offers the following ways to get your pets prepped for the holiday season.

- Make sure your pets’ vaccinations are up to date. For boarders, kennel cough is a concern, but it’s also tick and flea season, so make sure you have treated your pets against bites, says Dr Tarryn Dent, business unit lead for companion animals at Zoetis South Africa. One of the most important reasons to maintain your pet’s vaccines, however, is rabies protection. “Rabies can be transmitted to humans and is nearly 100% fatal to both people and pets,” Dent says.

- Speak to your vet. Before you begin planning your trip, consult with your vet. They know your pet’s health best and can flag any potential health issues.

- Plan a safe journey. Will your pet be sitting on your lap, in a soft basket or a soft-sided carrier? Are they comfortable in a car or will they be anxious? Do they get car sick? “Pets who suffer from car sickness could experience nausea, vomiting, excessive drooling, and occasionally other signs, including poor appetite for several hours after the trip,” says Dent. She suggested that those whose pets have a history of car sickness should speak to a vet about possible medication to help them relax.

- Make time for play and toilet breaks. Stop regularly to allow your pet to relieve themselves. Dogs in particular need to be able to stretch their legs, particularly if you’re travelling for a few hours.

- Find pet-friendly accommodation and holiday spots. It’s becoming increasingly common for people to take their pets on holiday with them, but don’t assume that your accommodation is pet-friendly. Make sure you ask and research the pet friendly places you can go in the area.

- Preparing your pet to stay home without you. If you can’t take your pet with you on holiday, you’ll need to prepare them for a boarding facility or hire a pet sitter. Dent suggests that pet owners conduct a site visit before making a choice and to socialise your pet so that they are comfortable in day care with other animals.

- Don’t let your pet over-indulge. Whether you’re going away or enjoying a “staycation” don’t let your pet partake in your leftovers. “We all over-indulge over the holiday period, but a lot of human food – especially rich human food – can be very bad for a pet’s health,” says Dent. “It can be tempting to want to share the delicious treats you’re enjoying with them, but for the good of their health, rather don’t.”

Make sure your pets are cared for this festive season. Supplied image.

Pack peace of mind with proper insurance.

Whether you're hiring a holiday home or renting yours out this summer, licensed non-life insurer and financial services provider MiWay believes that it’s important to understand the insurance implications that such a move entails. Here are a few key pointers to bear in mind:

For travellers

Before hitting the road, make sure your home and its contents are in safe hands. Unoccupied homes are easy targets for criminals, so it’s important to take adequate measures to deter intruders to avoid having your holiday ruined by claims and chaos.

Should you be planning an extended getaway, consider reaching out to a reliable house-sitter, who is likely to serve as a deterrent for opportunistic criminals, and who can also easily manage falsely tripped alarm systems and unexpected power cuts. If you’re unable to find a suitable candidate, consider asking friends to stop in at regular intervals, switching lights on and off and emptying your postbox so as to create the illusion of occupation.

It’s important to ensure that all doors and windows are securely sealed and that your alarm system is activated before departure. In light of recent load shedding, unplug devices like TVs, modems and kitchen appliances to prevent the possibility of damage by unexpected power surges.

For homeowners

Miway advises that before you place a house on the holiday accommodation market, you make time to speak to your insurer to ensure you're covered for a variety of eventualities, including the theft and damage of a guest's and your possessions during their stay.

You'll also need to ensure that you understand your obligations from a compliance perspective to avoid having potential claims invalidated due to a lack of adequate fire protection or the contravention of applicable zoning, health or safety regulations.

Miway added that once homeowners have settled on the correct cover with their insurer, it's important to inform all guests of the terms and conditions of this, ensuring that they’re aware of their rights and responsibilities. Given that insurance cover is typically subject to the correct use of an alarm system, provide detailed usage instructions to all guests, particularly those who might not be as familiar with these types of systems.

For renters

If you’re renting, Miway advises against assuming that your possessions are covered by your landlord’s insurance policy, which typically only makes provisions for structural damage. The insurers suggested keeping goods covered by taking out a home contents insurance policy so you’re adequately protected in the event of theft, power surges or natural disasters. Remember to insure your valuables for their replacement value rather than their current value, as this will increase the likelihood that any claims made will be paid out in full.

How to be safe on the road

During last year’s festive season, 1 148 died on the country’s roads from December 1 2020 to January 11 2021.

Dialdirect has compiled a list of practical tips to keep road users safe these holidays.

The Swartland Municipality during its Festive Season Road Safety Campaign. Photo: Swartland Municipality

– Have a checklist. Before you even start driving, check your vehicle’s lights and electrical system, windows and wipers, wheels and tyres, brakes, suspension, battery, belts and chains. You should also check if your vehicle’s cooling system, filters and fluids, exhaust system, body panels, mountings and accessories, safety and warning equipment and child seats are in order.

– Stick to good driving practice. Plan your trip carefully and use the technology at your disposal to avoid problem areas. Keep a safe following distance, stick to the speed limit and avoid tailgating and sudden, erratic movements. Minimise lane changes, signal early, accelerate and brake gradually and keep pace with traffic. If you need to overtake, do it only once it’s legal and safe. Accommodate other drivers.

– Make sure that your load is within your vehicle’s capabilities and that it’s properly secured. Tie a red piece of cloth to the end of any object that protrudes past your vehicle’s edges. All trailers are required to have a safety chain, which helps in the event of tow bar failure.

– Fight fatigue. Drivers should get at least seven hours of sleep before a long-distance trip, and avoid travelling during their body’s downtime, which for most people is between 2am and 6am. Plan breaks in your trip and do not drive when you’re tired. Avoid consuming foods with a high sugar or fat intake. Instead, drink enough water, eat healthy foods, and pull over to rest and refresh properly when you need to.

Avoid distractions. Distracted driving could be as dangerous as driving under the influence. Even hands-free solutions divide your attention. If something cannot wait, rather pull over to the side of the road.

If your car breaks down:

- Switch on your hazard lights and, if possible, pull into the emergency lane.

- Make sure that your vehicle remains visible, make use of your emergency triangle.

- If you get stuck in a dangerous spot, get out of your vehicle when it is safe to do so and walk carefully to the side of the road. Ideally, you should remain in your car with the doors locked.

- Immediately call your insurer for assistance.

If holidaying at home

Keep yourself and your possessions safe:

– Fit all access doors with security gates and install burglar bars on windows.

– Install electric perimeter fencing if it’s feasible, be sure to check for vulnerable points where objects like telephone posts or trees make it easy to jump the fence.

– Look out for suspicious vehicles or individuals when entering your property.

– Mix up your daily routine to make it less predictable for criminals to know when you’ll be home.

– After Christmas Day, don’t pile up empty gift boxes on the street. Instead, tear up the boxes and put them inside your black bin bags.

– Notify your security company when you won’t be at home for extended periods.

– Store irreplaceable, sentimental items in a safe.

– Lights that are always on and newspapers bulging from your post box send a clear message that you’re not home. If you can, install a timer for lights so that they only switch on at night. Or ask someone to check on your home, switch on lights and collect your mail while you’re away.

Holiday makers relaxing at uMhlanga beach. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

While away on holiday

– Keep your kids close, kidnapping and human trafficking are worryingly prevalent.

– Shop and explore with caution, discovering new places can be fun, but avoid ATMs and shops in quiet, remote and potentially dangerous locations.

– Save important contacts, have the local police/EMS provider’s number handy at all times.

– Chat to the locals, it’s valuable to find out which places are must-sees, and which to avoid.

How to avoid debt this festive season

MiWay Insurance has put together some handy tips to help you keep your festive finances in check:

– Decrease your debt: Beating the budgeting blues requires a conscious effort to cut back, clear and measurable outcomes, and an understanding of exactly what you are saving for.

– Gradually work your way out of debt by prioritising paying off as much debt as you can each month, instead of the minimum amount payable. If you’re lucky enough to get an annual bonus or a 13th cheque, use the cash wisely by paying off your loans, making an investment or putting some aside for a rainy day.

– Curb holiday spending. While it’s likely that you will spend more than you might in other months, it’s vital that you take stock of exactly what you have available to you, and revise your budget to accommodate extra expenses, rather than simply writing December off as “one of those things”.

– You can dial down the debt by employing alternative gifting strategies, like Secret Santa systems, which require each person to buy just one present, rather than a wide array of costly gifts.

– To avoid temptation, consider taking your shopping online, where the shiniest new gadgets and tempting toys aren’t on full display to deter you from your carefully crafted list.

Government in negotiations with the banking sector to encourage it to reduce transaction fees to foster savings particularly among the poor, said the deputy minster Nhlanhla Nene. We are looking to take a picture inside your bank of a clients hands doing a transaction.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi 453 credit card visa debt bank

Say no to credit. In the run-up to Christmas, there are plenty of enticing credit and “no deposit” deals that can tempt you into splashing out on expensive gifts you can’t really afford. But in the long run, credit leaves you with a higher price to pay and costs you more in interest repayments over the longer term. Rather say no to credit and stick to items you can afford. Carry cash as much as possible, as counting every cent makes you think twice about spending impulsively. Draw out your weekly budget from the ATM to make unnecessary and excessive spending a little less easy.

– Plan ahead. Planning your festive season well in advance will not only save you money, but it will ensure that you start 2022 on a strong financial foot.

Important Contact Details

SA Police Service: 10111

Childline: 08000 55555

Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 428 428

Lifeline: 0861 322 322

The Saturday Star

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