Preparation is the first step to preventing mishaps over the upcoming break

Frozen pipes or a missing laptop could easily spoil the holiday season for students leaving Pullman during winter break.

Local police and fire departments urge Pullman residents to take several precautions before leaving their homes during the upcoming break.

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said one of the best ways to prevent burglaries is to notify neighbors before leaving a residence unattended. They can report suspicious activity while nobody is home.

Jenkins urged residents to protect their valuables by taking them along during school breaks.

“If you have a laptop that you use for school or for work, or a small, portable electronic device, maybe you can take those with you so they don’t get stolen,” he said.

Jenkins said it is rare that burglars know what they are looking for when they enter a home. He recommended installing light timers, locking doors and windows and keeping valuable items out of sight.

“The harder the target that you can make your location, the less likely it is that you’ll be victimized,” he said.

Fire Prevention Officer Rich Dragoo said baseboard heaters are a major cause of household fires.

“Make sure your combustibles are away from the heater,” Dragoo said. “The thermostat will keep blasting heat, which will result in a fire.”

He explained that large items, like furniture, block heated air from filling a room, which causes the thermostat to pump increasingly hot air.

“If you’re going to leave your home during the winter break, you definitely want to leave your heater on to keep the pipes from freezing – just not so hot,” he said.

Dragoo recommended letting faucets drip cold water to keep pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes can break due to excessive internal pressure, which causes major flooding in residences.