A devastating burglary, expensive electrical fire, or messy burst pipe is the last thing anyone wants to deal with — or pay for — during the holidays.
Be cautious this holiday season to ensure you don’t encounter any dangerous situations or lose any of your home’s value.
Here are six holiday safety tips to protect your home:
1. Avoid visible gift displays.
People have many new, high-value items wrapped up in their homes around the holidays that burglars can easily and quickly grab—causing potential damage to windows, doors, and a home’s interior and exterior in the process. Police are unlikely to track down a thief and find your gifts: about 87 percent of burglaries go unsolved because of a lack of witnesses and evidence.
Though it’s tempting to set up a picturesque holiday vignette of a Christmas tree surrounded by piles of gifts near your front window, the Los Angeles Police Department encourages people to put presents out of view from windows and doors. Better yet, keep expensive gifts hidden until you’re ready to give them.
2. Select a fresh tree and water it daily.
Christmas trees cause an average of 210 fires and $17.5 million in property damage a year. To avoid this, choose the freshest tree possible. The National Christmas Tree Association recommends running a branch through your fingers to check for signs of dryness. Do not buy a tree if its needles come off easily, its branches break, it has discolored foliage, it smells musty, or its bark is wrinkled.
After bringing your tree home and putting it in a stand, check its water level frequently to make sure it doesn’t go below the base of the tree—otherwise, your tree may begin to dry out. And remember any sources of heat, like tree lights, fireplaces, heating vents or sunlight from a window, will cause a tree to dry out more quickly.
3. Choose your lights carefully.
Electrical issues are behind a third of Christmas tree fires, and the majority of those fires involve decorative lights. Consumer Reports cautions to only use lights tested in a nationally-recognized laboratory, like Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Old lights, especially if they are uncertified or damaged, generally draw more power and are a major risk.
The best lights for Christmas trees are certified miniature lights that emit low heat. But no matter what lights you use, always inspect them for loose connections, broken or cracked sockets, and frayed or bare wires. And never leave a lit Christmas tree unmonitored — turn off the tree lights when you leave the house or go to bed.
4. Prevent outdoor light displays from overheating.
Though it’s easy to plug numerous strings of lights together to wrap around the roof, this can cause a major fire hazard. Overloading a single electrical outlet with too many lights will overdraw the power and cause overheating. This can trip the circuit breaker and start an electrical fire.
Prevent this from happening by never attaching more than three strands of lights together. Consider using LED lights, because they use less energy and don’t get as hot as traditional incandescent lights. And, if you’re hanging up lights outdoors, make sure to use ones that are certified for outdoor use.
5. Drain outdoor pipes and insulate indoor pipes.
During cold winter nights, the water in pipes can freeze and cause them to burst, which may cost up to $6,000 to repair. To avoid an expensive cleanup, take preventative action. Outdoor pipes like sprinkler lines, hose bibs, and swimming pool supply lines are the most likely to freeze. Before cold weather hits, drain the water from your sprinkler lines and swimming pool, remove outdoor hoses, and close the inside valve to outdoor hose bibs.
Unheated interior areas, like basements, garages, kitchen cabinets, crawl spaces and attics, are also at risk. Pipes in these areas need to be insulated with pipe sleeves, heat tape or heat cables that are certified to cover exposed pipes. The American Red Cross advises that even one-quarter inch of newspaper can provide insulation.
6. Never leave cooking food unattended.
Cooking mishaps cause nearly 72 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires, leading to $28 million in property loss. The number of kitchen fires on Thanksgiving is more than twice the amount of fires on other days of the year, and turkey fryers alone have caused $8 million in property damage.
The American Red Cross recommends cooks should never leave food unattended and avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing and long sleeves. Also, enforce a “kid-free zone,” use a timer, install a smoke alarm, and keep cooking areas free of items that can catch fire, like oven mitts and towels.
We wish you all a safe and festive holiday season!
Adapted from Property Casualty 360, December 2016.
Holiday safety should not be overlooked. Injuries and property damage can put a damper on holiday festivities, so stay safe with our tips to avoid costly homeowner insurance claims.
Christmas Tree Fires
A Christmas tree loaded with electrical lights can be highly flammable. Other fires can be caused by placing a tree 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.
Over-taxed extension cords powering holiday lights 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 an electric current is not balanced or is overloaded. Also, we advise to not attach more than three strands of lights into one outlet or extension cord.
Fires Caused by Fireplaces
The fireplace can spark 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.
Don’t be distracted while cooking your holiday meals! 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.
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.
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 ingest these plants, immediately contact your local Poison Control.
Holiday decorating often entails hanging decorations indoors and outdoors, and falls are very common during this time of year.
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.
Fires Caused by Candles
Unattended candles are one of the leading causes of home fires.
Tip: Use battery-powered lights or flameless candles. If you do use candles, do not put matches, lighters, or candles in places where children can reach.
Most fires and damages listed above are covered by your Access Home Insurance residential homeowner insurance policy, subject to the terms and conditions of your specific policy. If you have questions about coverage on your insurance policy, please contact your agent. Find your agent online at www.accesshomeinsurance.com.