Insurance and Safety Tips for the Holidays

By on November 6, 2018

The holiday season is here. Whether you are enjoying the winter season at home with family and friends or vacationing abroad, it is important to consider the inherent risks around the holiday shopping and celebrations.

Many of us get caught up in the holiday spirit, becoming overtired and easily distracted, reducing our awareness of potential hazards from theft, injury or accidents and failing to think about the importance of liability protection when entertaining.

During this seasonal time of shopping, cooking, traveling and entertaining, keep safety in mind to help make sure the holidays run smoothly. Take care whether out shopping, on the road, decorating your home or office, or hosting a party. And be sure to update your insurance policies to reflect your new valuables.

Here are our top insurance tips on how to protect your friends, family, finances and assets as you enjoy the season:

Tips for a Hazard-Free Holiday Season

For many of us, the winter holidays are a time of joy, celebration and tradition as we look forward to hosting or attending festivities. We cook more, shop more and decorate a lot, however, all that extra cooking, traveling, shopping and celebrating can post potentially serious hazards to the home, office and pocketbook.

Whether you are planning or participating in the festivities, knowing the risks and how to help avoid injury, theft and damage to property from Thanksgiving through the New Year.

Around the Home: Holiday Cooking Hazards and Decorating Dangers

Holiday Parties and Events

Cooking has long been and continues to be the most common cause of home structure fires, fire-related injuries and personal accidents. Whether preparing for a family dinner or a quick snack, practicing safe cooking behaviors can help keep you and your family safe.

  • Never leave your stove or cook-top unattended while in use. If you have to leave the room for a short time and there is nobody to attend the cooking, turn off your cook-top temporarily.
  • Never wear loose-fitting clothing while cooking which may hang down onto hot surfaces and catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
  • Keep your cooking area free of combustible materials (flammable liquids, oven mitts near flames and clothing).
  • Be sure to clean up any spilled or splattered grease/oils as they could catch fire or cause a slip-and-fall accident.
  • Do not store food in your oven as it may be forgotten and this could catch fire while preheating.
  • Before using, make sure your kitchen appliances (including microwaves, mixers and toasters) are plugged directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord as it can overheat or overload the circuit and cause a fire.

Decorating Around the Home

Decorating the home, office or yard is a popular way to get into the holiday spirit. Planning your decorations carefully to help reduce the risk of fire, electrical shock, slip-and-falls, or property damage.

  • Purchase lights and electrical decorations (animatronic dolls, train sets, airblown yard decorations, etc.) from reputable retailers.
  • Use decor lights that have been tested for safety and used only in the location indicated on the packaging (indoor/outdoor) – look for a certification mark from UL, CSA, ETL or other nationally-recognized laboratories.
  • Consider using LED lights which use less energy, last longer and run cooler than incandescent lights. Some store may let you exchange your old lights for new LEDs at a discount.
  • Carefully inspect all lights and decorations for cracks, damaged sockets o r loose wires prior to use – these defects can cause a serious fire or shock.
  • Never exceed the maximum number of light strings or devices linked together, as indicated on decoration packaging.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets.
  • Unplug electronics and decorations before replacing bulbs, changing parts or attempting other repairs.
  • Set timers or turn off all lights and electrical decorations before leaving your home or office, or going to bed.
  • Never staple, nail through or fasten electrical wires or extensions cords in any way that might damage the wire or insulation – resulting in electric shock or fires.
  • Protect decorations from weather and maintain a safe distance away from flammable items.
  • Be cautious when using ladders to put up decorations – avoid metal adders when possible as they conduct electricity.

Common Holiday Fire Hazards

Fires are one of the primary causes for injuries and property damage during the holidays. Be extra cautious as you cook, use flammable substances, candles or products. And ensure your home is protected with fire insurance.

  • Never leave a lit candle unattended.
  • Use battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles to avoid having an open flame.
  • If you do use traditional candles, place lit candles away from flammable or combustible materials, including other decorations, fabrics, plastic or paper products.
  • Prevent candles from being easily knocked over with sturdy holders.
  • Extinguish all candles before leaving a room or going to bed.Fire hazards
  • Keep decorations and trees away from candles, fireplaces and heaters.
  • Have a fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it properly.

Protect Your Home From Liability and Loss With Proper Insurance

With accident statistics on the rise this time of year, and hordes of visitors coming in and out of your property they can also expose you to the potential legal liability should someone be injured at your home. You may want to consider a personal umbrella policy. And if you employ caterers or other event companies, it is critical to ensure that they provide adequate insurance for their employees.

Threats to Your Security During the Holidays

The holiday season is also a time of travel and shopping. While you are away, ensure your home’s security systems and fire alarms are working properly and set to on. Ideally you will want to have a friend or neighbor check-up or stay at your home while you are away.

Property Theft

Though it is hard to imagine that valuables like jewelry might be stolen or that precious art works might be unintentionally damaged by guests, visitors introduce an element of risk. One must be prepared for the possibility that acquaintances or strangers may be tempted to steal or damage items during a holiday social gathering. Take the proper precautions to lock-up valuable items and personal belongings.

Additionally, thieves are on the lookout for packages left in your car or delivered and left outside your home. To help avoid this situation, have your packages delivered to a location where they can be received in person, such as a neighbor’s house or your place of work. You may also request the shipper to require a signature or confirmation of delivery in order to prevent packages being left when no one is home to sign for them.

To help reduce the risk of theft from your vehicle, always lock your doors and windows up when leaving your car unattended. Park your vehicle in well-lit, high-traffic areas (for your safety and visibility to security). And do not keep any items – including gifts, purses or wallets – in plain view as these visible items can catch the eye of a thief. Instead, place items in your trunk before heading to your next destination.

Personal ID Theft

The holidays are a prime time for scams and thieves to target someones personal IDs. To help reduce the chances of falling victim to ID theft, keep the amount of personal information you carry in your wallet or purse at a minimum. Do not throw ATM or credit card receipts away into public trash containers or leave them on retail counters. Use your hand as a shield when typing in personal identification numbers. And take steps to safeguard your personal information with security through your credit card providers. Individuals can also purchase identity theft insurance to lessen the blow of becoming a victim of fraud

While the holidays are a fun and joyful season, they come with their own set of hazards and risks. Speak with your insurance agent to ensure you have proper insurance coverage for all of your holiday fun and gift giving.

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About Scott Ho

FSN insurance and retirement journalist - Planning for your retirement or understanding your insurance needs can be confusing and difficulty. Scott knows these tasks can seem daunting. He offers his experience to make choosing insurance coverage and planning for your golden years a successful endeavor. Connect with Scott at !

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