Everyone loves a classic holiday movie that includes fictional, comedic storylines: home intruders being scared away by a little boy; a cat that bites through the Christmas tree lights and sets fire to Uncle Lewis; or the beloved leg lamp award that shatters into a hundred pieces. While far-fetched in their display on the TV screen, the idea of similar occurrences may not be uncommon.
While unfortunate accidents may occur at any time throughout the year, opportunities that surround the holiday season put every household at an increased risk for a mishap. There are a few safeguards you can put in place to help protect your home during the holidays.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 160 home fires per year are due to Christmas trees. These fires cause an average of two deaths, 14 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage every year. Some tips you can follow to reduce your risk of a Christmas tree fire include:
- Water the tree daily to avoid drying out.
- Keep the tree away from any sources of heat.
- Do not have any open flame (candles, fire, etc.) near the tree.
- Use non-flammable decorations.
- Inspect lights for frayed wire or other defects before use.
- Do not leave lights on unattended.
- When the tree becomes dry, discard it immediately.
Any form of electricity can dangerous, so it’s no surprise that holiday lighting may pose a risk. We put together a list of tips you can follow to help reduce your risk this season:
- Only use lights certified by Underwriters Laboratories (look for the UL symbol when shopping for lights).
- Use outdoor lights strictly for outdoor use, and indoor lights strictly for indoor use.
- Only use power strips equipped with circuit breakers and/or surge protection.
- Do not overload power strips.
- Turn off lights when you go to bed or leave your home.
- Never use indoor extension cords for outdoor lights.
- Do not run extension cords through dry grass or water puddles.
- Use low-heat LED lights on trees, shrubs, and bushes.
- Do not decorate any dead or dry trees or shrubs.
Thanksgiving isn’t the only winter holiday that includes a lot of kitchen prep. Some precautions you can take while preparing all your holiday meals include:
- Never use turkey fryers indoors or in a garage. Keep outside on a flat, solid surface at least three feet from grass and shrubs.
- Ensure that cooking areas such as the oven and stovetop burners are free of flammable materials. These materials include purses and bags, plastic materials, cooking oils, oven mitts, towels, and wooden utensils.
- Do not wear baggy clothing while cooking. If you have long hair, tie it back.
- Clean grease and other food mess from stovetops and countertops to avoid burning.
- Keep children and animals at least three feet from the stove and oven.
- Avoid drinking and serving excess amounts of alcohol while preparing food.
Fireplaces provide warmth, comfort, and ambiance during the holiday season. They may also pose risks if not maintained properly. Reduce the chance of a fireplace mishap during this holiday season by taking a few extra precautions:
- Have your chimney and fireplace cleaned and inspected by a licensed specialist before winter arrives.
- Clean the fireplace after each use and store ash in a metal can at least 10 feet from your house.
- Open the flue before starting every fire and do not close until the fire has completely burned out.
- Keep a screen in front of the burning fire to prevent embers and hot coals from the damaging area in front of your fireplace.
- Use dry, aged wood in the fireplace to minimize creosote buildup.
- Do not store combustible materials near the fireplace.
- Do not burn anything other than fireplace-safe materials. Objects such as paper, cardboard, boxes, and trees can burn out of control and produce toxic fumes.
- Ensure your chimney is outfitted with a chimney cap to prevent embers from escaping and keeping animals and leaves out of the chimney.
- Do not allow children and animals within three to four feet of your fireplace.
- Make sure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are installed and working properly. Change batteries twice a year.
Theft and Home Invasion
While it may seem like a simple concept, it is one of the most effective. If you will be out of town this holiday season be sure to lock all doors and windows, engage your alarm system if you have one, and program outdoor lights to turn on at dusk and off at dawn.
If you will be away for more than a day, keep a car parked in the driveway to make it look like someone is home, and have mail held until you return.
Bring in Packages
December is a busy month to do online shopping, especially when we are amidst a worldwide pandemic. If you live in a city or high-foot traffic area, consider using an Amazon Hub Locker so that you can safely pick up packages at your convenience. Packages can be sent to your work address or held at a U.S. Post Office location until you can retrieve them. You can also leave a note on your front door addressed to UPS or FedEx indicating where you would like your packages to be placed.
Do Not Publicize an Empty House
Social media has become a common ground to talk about family visits, vacations, and great experiences. But during the holiday season, boasting about how you are traveling out of state can make your house a prime target for thieves.
If it is impossible for you to go a few days without updating the world of your travels, make sure your privacy settings are ramped up to avoid any unwanted viewers seeing your journey.
Even if you will be home, avoid displaying photos of your home and valuables. Sharing a photo of your 2-carat diamond earrings sitting in a jewelry box for the world to see may tell burglars you have something worth stealing.
Smart Homes Provide Safety
If you’ve been considering upgrading your home technology, the holiday season may be the perfect time to do so. Smart doorbells like Ring detect motion and provide video footage access of your front door from your smartphone.
Smart lights like Sengled Smart Light Bulbs can allow you to remotely control indoor lighting through Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home Assistant. You can schedule the lights to go on and off at certain times to make it appear as though someone is home.
Outdoor cameras like Arlo provide alarms, video footage, and safety without the monthly fee. These devices can be controlled by your phone, alarm if motion is detected, and geofence your home for added security.
Home safety devices may also offer a discount on your homeowner’s policy; be sure to check with your insurance agent to see what may qualify.
While the holidays may pose an increased risk for homeowner’s around the world, we should not let the fear of “what if” keep us from enjoying the season. It is important to be aware of the risks that we face every day of the year, but it shouldn’t control your life. By working with one of our experienced agents to ensure you have adequate homeowner’s insurance you can have peace of mind this holiday season.