By Tony Buthman

Happy Holiday Season. This time of year is when most of us make trips to the valley to do holiday shopping. It is a fun time of year to show our appreciation to the ones that make our lives complete.
However there are people that try to take advantage of our good nature, so here are some tips to help keep bad things from happening. We want everyone to be safe and enjoy this festive time of year, along with all times of the year.
Keeping our home safe is a high priority, lock doors and windows along with outbuildings. Vehicles should be locked as well as other items of value bicycles, motorbikes, lawn equipment, farm equipment and anything you cherish. If you are going to be gone overnight turn a couple lights on and maybe put the TV or a radio on a timer to have sounds coming from inside your home. Make arrangements to have neighbors’ pickup packages and mail and newspapers if you plan to be gone for an extended period of time. Now is a good time to visit with and get to know your neighbors, it is a good idea to lookout for the neighborhood. This time of year it is very good to be vigilant. Don’t advertise on social media times you may be gone from home, even day trips to shop, this information can travel very quickly in small communities.
Personal security is something we should always practice, this is where the term Situational Awareness comes from. This is taught in many forms. The main thing is to be aware of your surroundings all the time. Here are some tips to follow and practice even when you stay local so that they become instinctive rather than have to think about them.
When parking your vehicle don’t leave items visible for others to see.
Park in well-lit areas.
Keep your vehicle locked even if you’re going to run in for just a minute.
It is a good idea to have your keys in your hand as you leave the checkout stand, you already had to rifle around to pay for the items you just bought, so putting your keys in your hand should become second nature. Having keys handy is very useful for getting your vehicle opened quickly plus they can also be used to fend off, a would-be attacker if ever needed. Training in self-protection is another gift you can give yourself and the people you care about.
Money management is another area you should think about ahead of time. If you use cash don’t carry all of it in the same place. If a would-be thief sees a large amount of money they may be enticed to stalk you for an opportunity to take it from you. Credit and debit cards is another thing, protect these by not carrying them all together. You may lose them or purse snatchers or pickpockets may try and help themselves. Also with these, be extra safe with PIN numbers and protect cards from scanners. 
This is a good time to bring up cell phones, a good time to use these is when sitting in a diner or at the food court. If you’re on your phone texting or talking your Situational Awareness is nonexistent, making you extremely vulnerable. Never drive and Text or talk on your phone.
We want everyone to have a safe and wonderful holiday season. Always be prepared.