By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

People camped out in line for hours, anticipating the release of the latest gaming system. Shoppers storming store doors as they open, trampling over others in their excitement. Punches thrown over the last $300 flat screen TV. That’s right, folks. It’s Black Friday. And it can get nasty.

Last week I shared Thanksgiving safety tips, but it’s important not to stop there. The day after Thanksgiving can be just as dangerous — just in different ways. Big discounts lure customers to stores in high numbers, creating opportunities for criminals and increasing the chances of vehicle accidents. We know all too well from the news accounts that emotions tend to run high, in turn increasing the chance of altercations between customers and/or store workers.

We can’t prevent all mishaps, but we can get the word out to our communities and spread a message of patience and safety. Here are some tips to pass along during the chaos of Black Friday:

Be alert and aware of your surroundings and the people around you and your vehicle.

Park in a location closest to the store or mall. If shopping when dark, try to park in a lighted area.

Be careful of other motorists as they may be distracted.

Wear your purse close to your body, where it is difficult to snatch.

Carry your wallet in your front pocket or the inside pocket of a coat or jacket.

Return to your vehicle to deposit bags. Carrying too many bags can make you a target and can create hazards while using escalators.

If possible, leave children at home during Black Friday. The crowds of people can easily overwhelm a child who may get hurt or become lost. If you must bring a child, keep them in sight at all times, hold hands in crowded areas and ensure they know what to do if they become separated from you.

Know where fire and emergency exits are in stores and malls.

If you’re sick, do us all a favor and stay home! Bring hand sanitizers to help combat germs.

Put away that cell phone and be cognizant and courteous of others. When you’re on your phone you lose situational awareness and become easier prey for criminals.

 Whether you’re staying home on Black Friday or hitting the big box stores for the best bargains, remember to be patient and kind. Everyone likes a good deal, but there’s nothing you can put under the tree that’s more important than your personal safety.