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Simple Tips to Avoid Holiday Mishaps

xmas treeThe holidays are a special time of year for so many reasons. They are a time of giving, gathering, and sharing good food with friends and family.  Despite all the magic though, the holidays are not free from accidents. In fact, the holidays are one of the most dangerous times of year.  At Access Home Insurance Company (Access Home), we care about our policyholders’ safety.  Below is a list of the most common holiday mishaps, and tips on how to avoid them.

Poisoning by Plants

Live holiday plants, like mistletoe, holly berries, jerusalem cherry, and amaryllis should not be consumed by humans or pets as they are poisonous.

Tip: Keep these plants out of the reach of small children and animals. If children or pets do sample these plants, immediately contact your local Poison Control.


All the tinkering we do with electrical sockets and extension cords when putting up decorative lights during the holidays can result in some unpleasant and dangerous shocks.

Tip: Prevent electrocution by using a ground fault interrupter (GFI).  A GFI is a device that disconnects a circuit whenever it detects that the electric current is not balanced or overloaded.  Also, do not attach more than three strands of lights into one outlet or extension cord.

Fires Caused by Fireplaces

The fireplace characterizes the holiday season and can increase the risks of a devastating fire if not started or maintained properly.


1.  Once a year, have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney specialist.

2.  When using the fireplace, make sure the damper is open and always use a grate or a screen in front of the fireplace.  Should a fire become out of control, use an extinguisher or sand to put it out, not water.

3.  Avoid burning anything other than firewood or synthetic fire logs in your fireplace as things such as wrapping paper, cardboard, etc. can burn erratically.

Kitchen Fires

Cooking is a common holiday-time activity, and with all the distractions and sense of hurry that can come during this time of year, it can be a dangerous one. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.

Tip:  Keep flammable items, such as, wooden utensils, towels and food packaging away from the stovetop and oven. Keep a fire extinguisher approved for cooking and grease fires nearby.

Christmas Tree Fires

A Christmas tree loaded with festive electrical lights can be highly flammable. Other fires can be caused by a tree being too close to a heat source such as a fireplace or space heater.

Tip: Always turn lights off before leaving the house or going to bed.   It is also important to dispose of your tree properly after Christmas.  Trees at this time are very dry and hazardous!  They should not be left in a home, garage, or set on fire in your backyard or fireplace.  Check with your local community to find a recycling program for your tree.


Holiday decorating often entails hanging decorations indoors and outdoors, and falls are very common during this time of year. Though it’s tempting and seemingly easy to hop onto a chair, porch railing, or countertop, this is dangerous.

Tip: Always use a stable ladder or stool when you need some extra height.  If possible, have a friend or family member there to help and spot you in case of a potential fall or injury.

Kitchen Flooding

Dishwasher flooding happens quite often during this time of year due to heavy usage and improper clearing of the drain, or adjacent garbage disposal.


1.  Cut off the water at its source immediately at the first sign of flooding. Often there’s a reducer coupling and shutoff valve leading to the dishwasher on the 1/2-inch hot-water sink-supply line.

2.  Rubber hoses commonly are used to supply water to a dishwasher, and they deteriorate over time. Replace the rubber hose with a much sturdier steel-braided hose (found at most home improvement centers and hardware stores). Buying the hose and installing it yourself costs about $20.

If you do experience a garbage disposal backup, there are many resources available on the internet to assist you. One handy article that we found was from Yahoo.  Click to read:  Simple Tips to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal or a Clogged Pipe

Deep Fried Turkey Fires

Popular at Thanksgiving and Christmas, deep fried turkey fires generally occur while the oil is being heated, prior to adding the turkey.  For this reason, it is very important consumers monitor the temperature of the oil closely. If any smoke at all is noticed coming from a heating pot of oil, the burner should be turned off immediately because the oil is overheated.

Tip:  There is a risk of injury resulting from splashing due to the cooking of partially frozen meats. Thoroughly thaw and dry ALL meats before cooking in hot oil.  For more safety guidelines visit

Fires Caused by Candles

Candles are beautiful and provide a very cozy setting for any home.  Unfortunately, they can also be very dangerous if left unattended.

Tip:  Use battery-powered lights or flameless candles.  If you do use candles, do not put matches, lighters, or candles in places children can reach.


Injuries and property damage can put a damper on the holiday festivities, so stay safe and observe these safety tips to avoid costly homeowner insurance claims.

Most fires and damages listed above are covered by your Access Home residential homeowner insurance policy, subject to the terms and conditions of your specific policy.  If you have questions about coverage on your homeowners insurance policy, please contact your agent.  Find your agent online at

Access Home Insurance Company wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

Source:, Pennsylvania Insurance Department, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission