What a special time of year. I love the holidays. Some of my favorite memories are from Christmases gathered around the fire with candles burning. When I became an insurance professional, my perspective changed because now I see the dangers in many of these rituals. Over 15,000 people will be seriously injured and take a trip to the emergency room during the holidays. The insurance industry sees many house fires this time of year associated with holiday celebrations. You don’t want to make a trip to the emergency room, and you certainly don’t want to be displaced during this time of year.
Although dangers are associated with the holiday season, a few practices can make for a safer holiday. You can keep your family traditions but add these safety precautions as well.
Make certain your decorations are in proper working order—the ones on the tree and those decorating your home. Even if a decoration has sentimental value, don’t take a chance if it is not safe. Before using decorations, check them for solid connections and make sure no bare wires are showing. Decorations with loose connections or bare wires should be discarded.
Years ago a client in Maryville left a candle left burning and caused a fire losing half of their house. They were displaced at Christmas which made it extremely difficult for the family. If you prefer live candles, make sure they are positioned safely when lit and make sure they are fully extinguished when you leave the house or go to bed. Local retailers offer many great options for battery-operated candles, so you may want to explore that route as well.
One of my favorite things to do in December is to cruise neighborhoods and admire Christmas lights. You may be like Clark Griswold, but don’t overload the lights. Overloading electrical circuits is a common cause of fire, so be cautious with your outlets. The Electrical Safety Foundation International advises to never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights. Multiple light strands on a circuit may not only blow a fuse but may start a fire. Turn off all tree lights and decorations when not in use.
A house near my home on Best Road in Maryville has thousands of lights. This family has decorated for several years, so I am sure they practice safe light usage. It’s worth a trip if you have never seen this home’s holiday lights. They have actually inspired many of their neighbors, so most of the homes on the road are well decorated.
I’m sure you have heard this numerous times but keep your live tree well-watered especially if you decorate early in the season. I advise checking the water levels DAILY. If your tree is dry, it becomes a great source for fire. When using artificial trees, make certain they are labeled fire resistant.
Decorations, particularly your Christmas tree, should be securely anchored. Children are mesmerized by the lights and decorations. They love to look, but more importantly, they like to TOUCH! If they reach out to touch, get off-balance, and pull on the tree, it could fall on them.
Trees are also dangerous for pets. Watch your pets during holiday season. With visitors in your home and decorations throughout your house, you don’t want a trip to the emergency vet. Here are a few things to consider:
Several holiday plants (amaryllis, holly, lilies, and mistletoe) are toxic for pets. Know these plants and keep they away from pets.
A good rule of thumb is to never leave your pet alone in a room with candles or a decorated tree. Pets may also be mesmerized by the lights and can be injured by them. Be certain to keep ornaments, wires, batteries and other decorations out of reach of paws. Be careful your fur babies don’t eat something that has to be surgically removed.
Speaking of eating, pets can also be given or get additional human food that is not good for them. My bulldog, Dozer, loves to eat most anything he sees or smells, so I have to watch him closely.
Lastly, make sure your pets have a safe place when you are entertaining a house full of company. If your home is normally a slow-paced environment, and it becomes a festive noisy area, your pet will definitely need a place to relax.
Be careful if you light a fire in your fireplace. Whether your fireplace is gas or wood-burning, use a screen at all times when a fire is burning. It’s tempting, but don’t burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace. Be sure to check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year. Lastly, never leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended or when you are asleep.
Holiday cheer is celebrated in many forms and traditions. If you host a holiday party and serve alcohol, you should be extremely careful. It is your responsibility to guarantee everyone who leaves your home after consuming alcohol is sober or has a safe ride home. There are terrible stories of party hosts being sued by victims of drunk driving accidents.
You may want to stop serving alcohol an hour before your party is completed. This will allow guests some time to sober up. Check as guests leave to determine if they are ok to drive. You are not administering sobriety tests, so if there is a question about a guests’ ability to drive, do not let them. You want to do everything possible so that someone does not leave your home intoxicated and drive. Another great layer of liability protection for your assets would be an umbrella policy.
“To grandmothers house we go” definitely carries a different meaning these days as families are scattered throughout the U.S. Many families travel by car making roadways full during the holidays. Statistically, cars have the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. Practice safe driving procedures such as:
- Get plenty of rest before your trip. Don’t drive drowsy. This can be as dangerous as intoxicated driving.
- Buckle up and make sure everyone in your vehicle uses seatbelts.
- Check your children’s car seats before holiday travel. Safe Kids worldwide reports that 73% of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so check it before you hit the road.
- Avoid distracted driving particularly with your phone and watch out for distracted pedestrians as well.
- Practice defensive driving and be patient.
The Holidays can be such a fabulous time of the year with festive activities like hanging ornaments, stringing lights and holiday baking. These activities create life-time memories for families, but we want those memories to always be positive. A little prevention during the holidays can keep it the most wonderful time of the year.