The holidays are fun, festive times when we get in touch with what really matters: the people we love and how blessed we are in life. But in the midst of all the get -togethers, feasting, and gift-opening, there are certain risks that come along with celebrating this time of year.
Sadly, if this holiday season is like most, Christmas tree fires will claim lives and homes, falls will send thousands of holiday decorators to hospitals, others will have their cars or homes burglarized, and an unlucky few will lose their house to the turkey they were frying on the deck.
Don't become one of the statistics! Here are some tips to keep your home, your stuff and your family safe during holidays.
More than 200 Christmas tree fires occur in the U.S. every holiday season, and some claim lives. According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 1/3 of tree fires start with electrical malfunctions and nearly another 20 percent start because a heat source was too close to the tree.
Some basic tree safety from the NFPA:
- Check all your lights for damage, fraying and loose connections. Discard all bad strings. Do not use indoor lights outside or the reverse. Never combine more than three strings or 50 lights on one electrical outlet. Don't leave lights on when you are away from the house or overnight.
- Make sure your artificial tree is certified as flame retardant.
- Make sure the tree and all its branches are well away from heat sources like radiators and space heaters.
- Keep fresh trees watered daily until you take them down.
Cooking fires will also damage homes this season because cooks can be distracted with everything that's going on.
- If you are frying a turkey, place the fryer well away from the house on a level surface and never leave it unmonitored. Get good safety directions and follow them to the letter. Keep children away from the cooker. Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher close by.
- In the house, keep your range top clear of flammable materials. Do not leave food broiling, cooking or roasting unobserved.
If you use a wood-burning fireplace during the holidays, make sure the chimney is cleaned. Keep little children well away from the hearth. Never deposit ashes outside on the porch, steps or deck.
Believe it or not, candles cause more fires every year than Christmas trees, with $418 million worth of damage and more than 100 deaths annually. According to the NFPA, the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve!
Use candles safely:
- Candles in decorations should be securely contained in non-flammable candle holders, and the holders shouldn't convey heat to other decorations. The NFPA says candles should be 12 inches from combustible materials.
- Never leave lit candles in unattended rooms. Make sure candles are on sturdy surfaces. Two percent of fires start when candles are tipped over.
- Keep candles out of children's reach.
- Make sure all candles are extinguished when the get-together is over. Check for lit candles before going to bed.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree.
According to the NFPA, falls that occur during the holidays send about 5,800 people to the emergency room each year.
- String outside lights carefully or, if your roof is particularly high or dangerous, hire a professional to do it. Observe all ladder safety, including having the right size ladder for the job and securing it correctly against the roof. Untangle lights before you climb. Attach lights with fasteners meant for that job, not nails.
- Do not climb on furniture to string lights inside or decorate a tree. Use a step ladder.
- Keep holiday plants like poinsettias out of reach of children.
- Pick up wrapping paper immediately to eliminate fall risks. Make a play area for kids to enjoy new toys that is away from your home's traffic areas.
If you are giving an expensive gift, jewelry for example, schedule insurance for it when you take possession, even if it's weeks or months before you will actually give it. You want to have coverage on that $8000 engagement ring or $20,000 necklace at all times so talk to your American Integrity Insurance agent before you complete your purchase. Make sure you keep expensive gifts in secure locations and certainly don't disclose the fact that you're shopping for jewelry or other expensive gifts on social media.
When holiday shopping:
- Deposit gifts in the trunk or covered cargo area, not on the back seat.
- Shop during daylight hours, and if you must shop at night, bring along a companion or two.
- Park in well-lighted areas.
- Never overload yourself with packages. Carry only a small amount of cash and your cards on your person.
- Do not let yourself be engaged in conversation by strangers in parking lots or garages.
To discourage home theft:
- Make sure your house is securely locked (even if you are only going to be gone for a few minutes), your entrances are well lighted and that your house looks occupied.
- Leave music or the TV on when you are out.
- If you are having packages delivered to your house, make sure someone is home to receive them or ask a neighbor to watch for deliveries and bring them inside.
- Don't wrap and display presents under the tree before the holiday, if your tree is visible from the outside.
- If you are away for the holidays, have someone check your home regularly, and bring in mail or packages. Use timers to turn lights on and off, and motion detector lights outside to discourage prowlers. For more tips, see our post on home security.
Identity theft is an unhappy fact of modern life. This season, in light of data breaches at major retailers and banks, some shoppers are purchasing gift charge cards to shop with rather than using personal credit or debit cards. Leave your purse at home; about 40 percent of identity theft can be traced to stolen purses or wallets. Only use trusted online shopping sites, and protect your cards and your personal information at all times.
Here at American Integrity Insurance, we just added Identity Recovery protection that can help you get back on your feet faster, if your identity is stolen. Ask your American Integrity agent about how to add this affordable coverage to your homeowner’s policy.
For more holiday safety tips, check out these useful links and have a wonderful holiday season:
National Fire Protection Association: Holiday Safety Information for Consumers
PBS: Five Safety Tips for Deep-frying Turkey
This Old House: 14 Ways To Prevent Holiday Break-Ins