The Renter's Guide to Holiday Safety

The holiday season can be one of the happiest of the year, but holiday safety is paramount. The U.S. Fire Administration and FEMA warn that the most home fires and fire-related injuries are reported during the holidays.

Crime also has a way of going up during the holiday season: Perhaps the idea of the big man in red coming down the chimney, gives bad people bad ideas. "I am so busy all the time," says Nora Crawford, a renter in Chicago, "that I rarely think about safety measures in my home unless something is literally on fire."

So, this year, give yourself and your family and roommates the gift of safety and security by thinking about the following tips:

1. How Old Is Your Fire Extinguisher?: When you moved into your apartment, you probably checked to see if your management had provided you with a fire extinguisher, but maybe you forgot to ask how long it had sat on top of your refrigerator collecting dust before it came into your hands. With home fires at an all time high at the holidays, now might be a good time to make sure your unused fire extinguisher has seen no more than 6 to 8 Christmases. If it has, ask Santa (or your landlord) for a new one.

2. Check Your Smoke and CO Detector's Batteries: The U.S. Consumer Product Commission suggests you check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors' batteries Find Apartments and Homes for Rent Find the perfect place to rent in your area on AOL Real Estate See Apartments for Rent See Homes for Rent monthly. They suggest you change them twice a year when you change your clocks unless you have 10 year lithium batteries. These are, after all, your first line of defense in the event of a house fire or a carbon monoxide leak. So, if you haven't checked them in a while, go ahead and conduct a mini safety drill at the holiday season.

3. Make an Emergency Plan: Does your household have a plan in the event of an emergency? If not, take a few minutes of your holiday vacation time discussing your building's best escape routes and making sure you have an up-to-date list of numbers for your local police and fire people. Similarly, make sure you know where the nearest emergency room is, just in case someone has an accident while carving the honey-baked ham.

4. Practice Elevator Safety: Especially if you live in a building without a doorman, be wary of getting on an elevator with a stranger. You are more vulnerable than you think in this small space and can easily find yourself mugged or worse, locked in. Around the holidays, along with the good comes the bad. So, be aware.

5. Look at Fire Hazards: As a holiday gift to your landlord, report any suspicions you might have about bad lighting and other fire hazards. Do your lights flicker when the heat kicks on? Are their overgrown shrubs blocking exits or dangerously wrapping themselves around outside lights? Do your building's holiday decorations include dry trees and lights that look like they have been around since the birth of St. Nick? Report these things. And if you are worried about candle safety and the hippies in 3B, tack up a sign in your lobby and spread a little holiday smarts along with the cheer this year!

6. Lock It Up: Look around for sneaky ways sneaky criminals can get into your home this holiday season. If there is a cellar door that needs a pad lock or a window bar coming loose, get those things fixed. Even if you live on a higher floor in your building, harried neighbors holding the door for strangers puts everyone at risk, so make sure you are safe.

The whole year round everyone is busy with work, family and day-to-day living. Renters often forget that even though many safety measures are the responsibility of the building management, they have a responsibility to their own safety to make sure those safety measures are met. On Christmas, things slow down. There is time to take an hour, or even ten minutes, to make sure your home is a safe one.

"My roommates and I plan to spend time making sure we are as safe as we can be in the new year," says Crawford. "I think it will make everything merrier."

Want to know how to deal with other rental issues? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides that can help:

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