How to Keep Your Home Safe this Holiday Season
Tips for staying safe and secure during the winter holidays
Before you order your first holiday present, switch on the light display, and cozy up in front of the fireplace, there are a few safety measures you should take to make sure your holidays are filled with joy instead of sorrow. A hurried and stressful season makes it easy to forget to take precautions to protect your loved ones and belongings. But you can prevent theft and accidents from ruining the magic of the holidays.
Grab a glass of eggnog and review these tips to keep your home safe this holiday season.
Don't be a soft target.
Thieves are always looking for victims who make stealing easy and profitable. Such "soft targets" unknowingly remove barriers that would otherwise deter criminals from burglarizing their homes. Help protect your home from theft with these tips:
- Lock doors and windows, even if you live in a low crime area.
- Install a home security system to monitor your property 24/7.
- When you’re not home, look like you are by keeping lights on a timer.
- Break down boxes from recent purchases and place them in a recycle bin instead of setting them by the curb for pickup.
Check your holiday lighting.
Stringing lights on your holiday tree or outside your home is an annual tradition for many families at this time of year. While you might be in a rush to quickly set everything up, slowing down could help you avoid an accidental fire this holiday season. Keep your lighting beautiful and safe with these recommendations:
- Don't discard instructions. Review the instructions and safety labels for any new lights you purchase. Only buy lights that have an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label, which ensures the lights have been tested for safety.
- Inspect last year's lights before you use them, and discard any that have worn or broken cords.
- Overloaded electrical outlets put you and your home at risk. Wall sockets and power strips should be handled with care, and power strips should not be used for extended periods of time. Check power strips often, and unplug them if they feel warm.
Use fireplaces, chimneys, and candles with care.
The holidays are a prime season for accidental home fires due to the increased use of furnaces, fireplaces, and decorative lights and candles. Following these steps can keep your home, your family, and your holidays safe:
- Hire a professional to clean your chimney. A qualified chimney sweep can remove the creosote buildup, soot, and ash that contribute to chimney fires. Always use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from escaping and starting a fire.
- Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Replace batteries or units as needed. Smoke detectors have an expiration date of approximately 10 years, while carbon monoxide detectors last 5 to 7 years.
- Replace or service fire extinguishers. If a fire extinguisher has been used, or shows signs of missing parts, missing tags, or damage, it should be replaced. Fire extinguishers last 5 to 15 years. Review product documents for service details.
- Keep decorations, including gifts and trees, away from open flames.
- Replace traditional candles with flameless ones.
Protect the four "P"s.
Plants, people, and pets need extra protection during the holidays. Bringing your plants indoors can protect them from freezing temperatures, but some plants can be toxic to people and pets. Ingesting certain seasonal plants, such as poinsettias and holly berries, can cause humans and animals to get sick. Keep these plants away from kids and pets. While you're placing plants on higher ground, remember to keep other breakable decor out of reach.
In addition to plants, people, and pets, your pipes might need extra care this season. Frozen pipes that contain water expand and can eventually burst — and that could put an end to holiday festivities fast. Protect your pipes by wrapping them with protective material or letting water trickle from a faucet when temperatures drop below freezing
A safe and happy holiday season is the goal, and taking precautions to protect your home and family can help you achieve it. Invest a few minutes now to prevent an accident from spoiling your holiday. The end of the year is also an excellent time to review your home insurance policy. Ensure you have adequate protection by asking Branch how newly installed smoke detectors and fire extinguishers can lower your annual premium.