Holidays bring more time with friends and family, more parties, more joy, and more festivities. But they also bring more accidents and insurance claims. Homeowners insurance claims tend to top the list during the holiday season. From package theft to Christmas tree fires, here are some of the biggest threats to your home and how to prevent them.
Avoid Fire Accidents and Claims
There are some fires that are hard to avoid - like unpredictable wildfires. But other home fires can be easily avoided, like fires from holiday decorations, dry Christmas trees, and candles.
According to data from Allstate, home fire claims increase 15% during the holiday season.
Here are some of the biggest causes of holiday season home fires and tips to prevent them:
Candles are one of the biggest fire hazards in the home during the holidays. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), four of the five most dangerous days of the year for residential candle fires are Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s day. The median cost of a candle-related claim is $50,000.
To prevent candle-related fires, never leave candles unattended. Always make sure candles are out of reach of children. Make sure all candles are extinguished before going to bed or leaving the home. And, because 58% of candle fires start from something flammable was too close to the candle, be sure that lit candles aren’t placed near bedding, curtains, furniture, or other holiday decorations.
An average of 200 home fires start with a Christmas tree per year, according to the NFPA. These Christmas tree-related fires result in an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8M in property damage annually. The median cost of a Christmas-tree related homeowners insurance claims is $100,000.
To prevent Christmas tree-related accidents and claims during the holidays, take extra caution with both real and fake trees.
Keep Christmas trees watered. A dry Christmas tree can go up in flames in less than a minute, as this terrifying video by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission demonstrates. A well-watered tree burns at a much slower rate.
If shopping for an artificial tree, look for one that is labeled as fire resistant.
Real or fake, keep your Christmas tree set up away from heat sources and trim it with fire-resistant materials. Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, don’t place decorative candles near the tree, and don’t place the tree too close to the fireplace.
A crackling fire is the perfect remedy for a cold winter night and a great background for a cozy holiday gathering. But fireplaces can also be a home fire hazard, as well. Chimney fires can be caused from chimneys that aren’t used or cleaned frequently. Faulty gas lines and fireplace build-up can make gas fireplaces a fire hazard, too.
Keep fireplaces clean and maintained. 44% of Americans with gas fireplaces have not had their fireplace inspected in the last three years. Don’t leave fireplaces burning if you’re going to bed or leaving the house.
If your idea of a perfect holiday gathering is hosting family and friends and preparing a delicious meal, you’re not alone. 87% of hosts plan to do “lots of cooking” over the holidays. But an unattended stove could send your party plans up in flames. The peak days for home cooking fires are Thanksgiving, the day before Thanksgiving, and Christmas day.
To prevent cooking fires, pay attention to the task at hand when preparing the meal. Don’t leave burners and stoves unattended. Don’t place flammable decorations near an oven or stove.
Before the holidays, install new batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. All family members should know where they could locate a fire extinguisher in the home and how to operate one.
Avoid Theft and Burglary Claims
Home fires aren’t the only hazard that increases during the holiday season. Burglars know that it’s prime time for break-ins; thefts typically skyrocket during the holidays. Claims for theft can increase by 7% during this season of buying and gifting.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day report the second highest burglary rates of the year.
- 65% of home thefts take place during daylight hours - between 10AM and 3PM
- 1 in 3 home break-ins are unforced entry (the door was left unlocked)
During the 21-day Christmas season, more than 50 million people are expected to take to the skies on U.S. based airlines. That’s a lot of homes left unattended for the holidays.
To avoid home burglary, be sure to keep your home locked up tight. Secure gifts and valuables out of sight. Once gifts are inside the home, don’t leave them in plain sight of open windows. Stow gifts and valuables out of sight if you’re hosting a holiday party at your home. Dispose of boxes that contained high-value gifts, such as big screen TVs or computers, instead of leaving them out in plain view.
But burglars aren’t just looking for homes left empty for the weekend, they’re looking for any opportunity to steal valuables and gifts.
And many need look no further than your front porch.
Each year more than 23 million homeowners have a package stolen. Package delivery is a huge risk during holiday season. FedEx and UPS delivered more than 30 million packages a day between Black Friday and Christmas Day in 2016 and “porch pirates” are getting better and better at stealing those deliveries.
To prevent theft and burglary claims, don’t neglect home security during the holidays. Half of survey responders admit to leaving a door unlocked for a friend or family member during the holiday season, and 46% say they’ve hidden a key for a friend or family member staying in their home.
To prevent package theft, schedule deliveries for a time when you know you’ll be home. Alternately, have them delivered to your workplace if possible, require a signature for delivery, or find an Amazon Locker in your area to receive packages in a secure location.
Bonus: Social Media Safety
You may not realize it, but your social media activity could put you at greater risk for theft or burglary during the holidays. You may think you’re posting pictures of your wonderful family trip at a picturesque destination, or just checking-in at a local holiday festival, but what you’re actually doing is broadcasting the fact that you’re away from your home.
Broadcasting your shopping deals can be just as dangerous. When you share with the world the great deal you got on the expensive electronics you nabbed, you’re also letting would-be burglars know exactly what to find wrapped and ready under your Christmas tree.
Posting your location, vacation, or recent shopping victories can put you at greater risk for theft and burglary, so use social media wisely during the holiday season.
This holiday season make the right kind of memories. Avoid preventable accidents and homeowners insurance claims by keeping safety and security at the top of your list.