The holiday season is upon us, and if you’re like most, you may be tempted to deck your halls with all the trappings of the season. But before you do, it’s worth remembering that the holidays have the potential to bring some not-so-merry tidings. Between the numerous parties, the abundant cooking, the entertaining and the traveling, your home faces more hazards during the holiday season than you may think.
Here are six ways you can protect your home, family and finances during the most wonderful time of the year.
Tend to Your Tree
The centerpiece of your holiday décor — your tree — can also pose a few threats. In fact, between 2011 and 2015, Christmas tree fires did more than $14 million in property damage annually.
If you’re partial to a live tree, don’t forget to water it every day, without fail. Dried-out trees pose a far greater risk of catching fire than their hydrated counterparts. It only takes a few seconds for a short-circuited light strand or overloaded outlet to turn a dry tree into a dangerous ball of flames.
While artificial trees may not create the same olfactory ambiance as live ones, they’re less likely to catch fire. You can further reduce your fire risk by trimming your tree with LED lights, which give off less heat.
Even the consummate holiday host can be vulnerable to kitchen mishaps. If you’re preparing a holiday feast, there are a few kitchen hazards you should keep in mind to protect both you and your home:
- Unattended pots and pans. Simply greeting a guest can take your attention from the pots and pans boiling on the stove — and if they catch fire, a scorched meal may be the least of your worries.
- Dull knives. It may seem counterintuitive, but dull knives can actually be more dangerous than sharp ones. That’s because a dull knife is more likely to slip off your vegetable or roast and nick your counter, or worse, your hand. Keep knives sharpened for safer chopping.
- Stray dish towels, food containers, etc. Say a corner of your dish towel lands on a burner. Or your gas stove ignites the box of cornstarch you were relying on for your gravy. The ensuing smoke and flames will not only ruin your party, but they’ll cause damage to your home.
- Plugged-in appliances. When you’re done simmering your trademark apple cider in the slow cooker all day, unplug it. If left plugged in, appliances like pressure cookers, toasters and blenders can pose a fire hazard.
Remember to keep a fully charged fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit on hand in the kitchen to quickly put out any flare-ups or address any injuries.
Keep Fire in its Place
Nothing says “holidays” like a warm, cozy fire lighting up the fireplace, but there are a few things you should keep in mind before you get that fire crackling.
First, make sure your fireplace has been cleaned. A dirty chimney can lead to a dangerously flammable buildup of creosote. Then — and this may seem obvious — make sure the flue (sometimes called a damper) is open.
Finally, focus on your firewood. Be sure you only burn wood that has been properly dried out, since moisture can create excess smoke. If your firewood has been sitting out in the rain and snow, cover it with a tarp and don’t use it until it’s lightweight and dry.
Look After Your Furry Friends
While you may be tempted to adorn your home with all the flora of the season, some holiday plants may not put your pets in a celebrating mood. In fact, some can be outright toxic to animals. Poinsettias, for instance, can cause both your canine and feline friends some gastrointestinal distress, and large amounts of mistletoe have been known to cause low blood pressure, abnormal heart rates and even seizures in cats and dogs. Before you deck the halls with holiday plants, do a little research on which ones are pet-friendly.
Also, man’s best friends have been known to gnaw on trees, holiday lights, tinsel and other decorations. All of these pose a choking hazard to your pets, so do your best to keep them out of their reach.
In 2017, AAA predicted that around 107 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more during the holiday season. If you’re joining the traveling masses this year, you’ll want to make sure your home is safe and sound until your return.
Before you head out on your holiday adventures, make sure your home looks lived in. Double-check that all your light bulbs are working, then place them on timers. Schedule the lights to turn on and off throughout the house at different times. After all, most people don’t turn on one light in the evening and leave it on through the night. If it’s in your budget, gift yourself some smart lightbulbs. That way, you can control your lighting from your smartphone, no matter where you are.
And don’t leave town without unplugging everything but the lights. If you live in a cold climate, leave the cabinets under your kitchen and bathroom sinks open. That way, the heat from your furnace can get in and help prevent your pipes from freezing while you’re away.
Shovel Those Walks
Entertaining friends and family are what the holidays are all about. But a word to the wise: make sure your sidewalks and driveways are clear of snow and ice. Obviously, nothing spoils the holiday merriment like a loved one falling and hurting themselves.
What’s worse, you could be liable for medical bills if someone injures themselves on your property. That’s why it’s also a good idea to make sure your homeowners insurance policy includes sufficient liability coverage.
Whether you’re hosting the yuletide festivities or venturing over the river and through the woods, we hope these tips keep your home safe and sound this holiday season.
Jonathan Noble is a Senior Copywriter for Esurance, where he writes about everything from home improvement hacks to IoT and the future of autonomous vehicle technology. Outside of the insurance sector, Jonathan’s writings have spanned from art to travel, fitness and more. To learn more about Esurance’s homeowners insurance policies, visit their website.