The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The United States Fire Administration reported that structure fires, and the dollar loss per fire, is nearly one-third higher between December 1 and January 7. On Christmas Day alone, the incidence of fires caused by candles quadruples compared to any other day of the year.
The holidays can also be a peak time of year for home burglaries as many police departments across the country list the week after Christmas as the highest burglary caseload. You can escape these worst-case scenarios with common sense and a little forethought. To keep your home safe and secure this holiday season, here are three simple rules.
1. Don’t Leave the Kitchen Unattended
One of the leading causes of fires during the holidays isn’t Christmas trees or Christmas lights—it’s cooking. While cooking-related fires are most common on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve aren’t far behind.
2. Mind Your Festive Lights
Even if you follow all instructions, like making sure that the base of your Christmas tree is always submerged in water, you are still at risk for a fire if you don’t manage your Christmas lights safely. To lower your risk of a fire, always follow these light-safety tips:
- Use low heat, miniature lights.
- Inspect every light before you put a strand on the tree.
- Refrain from overloading power strips or outlets.
- Use lights designated for indoor use only.
Christmas-tree lights should be treated like an open flame. Never leave them on when no one is home, and always turn them off before you go to bed.
Outdoor lights are a little more complex—and just as dangerous. Keep these basic guidelines in mind when setting up your display:
- Never set up your lights by yourself.
- Never place lights by gutters that might contain dry leaves.
- Never hang decorations from the lights.
- Never rely on strands of lights to support themselves—reinforce them with insulated, not wire or metal, hooks.
- Never use lights that haven’t been tested and verified by a group such as Underwriters Laboratory.
- Never ignore warm wires on your daily lights check.
Just like indoor lights, the most important step you need to take with outdoor lights is to turn them off before you go to bed, and when you are not at home.
3. Don’t Leave Your Home (and Gifts) Vulnerable
Leaving your house clearly unattended is an open invitation for burglars. If you plan on going out of town, even for a day or two, follow these simple rules:
- Hire someone—a contractor, a neighbor kid—to keep your driveway shoveled.
- Arrange for a neighbor to collect mail, newspapers or any packages left on your doorstep.
- Let trusted neighbors know of your travel plans, but do not post your plans—or photos—on social media.
It’s tempting to display beautifully wrapped presents under the tree prior to the holiday but, if your tree is within sight of any windows, you may want to keep your gifts hidden until the day you’re unwrapping them. Burglars often monitor homes, looking in windows for easily accessible items like large presents in the shape of a television.
Even if you’re staying home this holiday season, you still need to take steps to defend your home against burglars:
- Do not place your presents under a brightly lit Christmas tree; keep them safely undercover until Christmas morning.
- If you are expecting deliveries—especially expensive gifts, such as a television—make sure that they are signed for and brought inside immediately.
- Conceal all packaging and boxes in dark trash or recycling bags, or organize the boxes inside your house and take them to the trash in the weeks after Christmas. You don’t want to show the entire street what everyone in your home received for Christmas.
Get Peace of Mind This Holiday Season from Auto-Owners Insurance
This holiday season is the perfect time to check with your local insurance agent to confirm that you are protected against everything that could go wrong. The independent agents who represent Auto-Owners Insurance in your community are experts at seeing gaps in your home insurance coverage that could leave you and your home vulnerable. For example, what if gifts are stolen from the trunk of your car while it’s parked in your driveway? Is that covered?
Your Auto-Owners agent can answer all these home insurance questions and give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your home and your presents are protected this holiday season.