While most of us are focused on spending time with family and friends, shopping for gifts, and making travel plans over the holidays, it’s also important to keep your home safe during this busy season. Yes, the holidays can be stressful, and the thought of a fire, theft or an accident can only add to that stress. However, there are some simple precautions you can take to diminish worry and provide some peace of mind.
Avoid theft and burglary
It’s a less cheerful holiday season reality, but there are higher rates of theft and burglary during this time of year. While this doesn’t need to put a damper on your spirit, there are some simple steps you can take to increase your safety.
Home for the holidays
- Track all your online orders and make sure you’re aware of delivery times and days. Do your best to be home to receive packages when they are scheduled to arrive.
- Even when you’re home, it’s smart to keep all doors locked.
- Hide Christmas gifts and packages — unfortunately, it is not advised to leave gifts under the tree prior to Christmas and any gifts left out should be kept away from windows.
- Packaging for expensive gifts should be burned or cut up before placed in the garbage. Some thieves will dig through trash to see what valuables may be inside your home.
- When shopping online, shop at websites you trust, create strong passwords for your accounts, shop with credit cards for more liability protection, and be very wary of email scams (don’t open attachments from people or businesses you don’t know).
- Take note of people or vehicles parking nearby that are not usually observed in your neighborhood.
When you’re away for the holidays
- Web-based security cameras are the best method to remotely monitor your home — see who is coming and going, when packages are delivered and record activity when you’re away.
- Get rid of the hidden key outside your home and leave it with a neighbor or make copies for family and friends. More experienced home invaders will search out common sense hiding places.
- Don’t make announcements on social media that you will be leaving for the holidays.
- Wait until you are home to make holiday posts, don’t post your location while you’re away.
- Put your lights on a timer and have them turn on during normal hours when you would be home. Just because you’re on the road, your home shouldn’t appear empty.
- Make sure mail and packages are held for you until your return.
- Record the make, model and serial number of your valuables (artwork, electronics, firearms, etc.) and photograph or take a quick video log of your jewelry and other important belongings. Stolen property is much easier to recover with solid identification.
- Tell a neighbor or friend when you’re going out of town and have them drop by to check in on your home.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, on average, unattended cooking fires were the leading cause of house fires in the United States, with Thanksgiving being a peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. This is closely followed by home decoration fires, more than half of which are started by candles.
Here are some tips to stay safe:
- It’s easy to get distracted by family and friends when cooking — keep a close eye on your oven and stove.
- Choose a freshly cut Christmas tree — these are more fire resistant. Also, be sure to keep your tree watered and away from open flame.
- Before you place your Christmas tree in a stand, cut a few inches off the bottom of your tree to expose fresh wood. This allows better water absorption and prevents your tree from drying out as quickly.
- Keep your Christmas tree stand filled with water and make sure your tree cannot be easily tipped over.
- Don’t set up your tree near the fireplace, radiators or space heaters and keep it clear of foot traffic through your home.
- Avoid burning Christmas wrapping paper in your fireplace, which can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
- When shopping for an artificial tree, make sure it is labelled as “fire resistant.”
- Ensure your flue is open before igniting any fires and remove any decorations from around the fireplace.
- Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
- Test your smoke alarms and keep exits from your home clear.
Holiday lights & decorations
Hopefully you won’t be dangling from your rooftop this Christmas, trying to button up that last string of lights. Here are a few things to consider before lighting up your home with Christmas cheer:
- Keep lighted strings and electrical decorations up high, out of the reach of children and pets.
- Never use candles to decorate Christmas trees.
- Use non-combustible materials whenever possible and always shop for decorations labelled “flame-resistant” or “flame-retardant.”
- Don’t overload your circuit breaker or extension cords.
- When hanging lights, lace them through hooks or insulated staples — never use nails or tacks or you risk damaging the wire insulation on your cord.
- Perform a careful inspection of your lights before you hang them and replace or repair damaged bulbs or cords before plugging them in.
- When you leave the house or go to bed, turn off all your lights to avoid a potential fire.
- Make sure your lights are certified for outdoor use before hanging them from your roof or outdoor fixtures.
It only takes a few steps to help protect your home, safety, security and your family this holiday season. A proactive approach to safety is worth its weight in Christmas eggnog. You’ll feel comfortable in knowing you’ve taken measures to protect your home and more at ease enjoying holiday gatherings.
If you have any other questions about making your home safe and secure during the holidays or throughout the year, contact a Hippo Specialist. We’re here to help.