The holiday season is affectionally thought of as the most wonderful time of the year, and with good reason. Whether your favorite thing about the year is the holiday lights, the festive music, delicious food, or the opportunity to give to people you love or to your community, cheer is usually abundant around the holidays.
With that cheer, however, come some risks—there are a number of holiday safety hazards it’s good to be aware of as you move throughout the season. These hazards apply to all homeowners but are especially helpful to keep in mind if you are newer to owning a home since there may be some hazards that catch you by surprise. Yep, a Christmas tree can catch on fire, or those delicious latkes that are a family tradition can easily cause a grease fire. That’s not to mention the uptick in theft that we usually see around the holidays, from presents to holiday décor. And what if someone visiting your property falls and slips on your walkway?
In this post, we will talk about some of those hazards along with preventive measures you can take to make holiday safety a priority this season. We will also answer the question, “what does homeowners insurance cover?”, since we know it can be a little confusing determining what exactly does and doesn’t fall under coverage.
If you’re considering getting a homeowners insurance quote or you’ve been meaning to review your policy, there’s no time like the present. You can get a quote with Homesite to bundle with your auto insurance or log in to assess your coverage.
Common holiday home hazards–and preventive measures you can take to have a safe holiday season
The hazard: fires caused by holiday decorations and cooking
A scenario: A dry Christmas tree. Burning candles too close to something flammable. Cooking with grease. These are a few of the things that can cause holiday-related fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
How you can prevent it: If you have a live Christmas tree, make sure to water your tree and keep it away from heat sources that might dry it out, like a fireplace or a radiator. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends looking for a “fire resistant” label when buying an artificial tree. If you’re using lights to decorate your tree, make sure they’re in good condition.
To prevent kitchen fires, the CSPC advises never leaving food unattended and keeping flammable items like potholders away from the stove. If you’re frying a turkey, do it outside and away from your home. Finally, for burning candles, keep them in sight and away from flammable items. Never leave them unattended, and be sure to blow them out before you leave the room.
What insurance covers: Homeowners insurance covers damaged or destroyed property, including the structure of the home or belongings inside from fire. It also covers loss of use, which reimburses a homeowner for living expenses that exceed normal living costs if they are displaced from their home due to a covered loss.
The hazard: car or home theft
A scenario: You get a delivery notification that all those presents you ordered online on Cyber Monday have arrived, but when you go out to check your front porch, there are no packages to be found. You check the back door and see if your neighbors might have received them by mistake, but no luck. All signs point to the likelihood that someone stole them. Or you’re at the mall and you leave a car full of presents in plain view. You think it’ll be okay to run inside one more store for just a few minutes—but when you get back to your vehicle, you see a window has been broken and all those presents you just shopped for are gone.
How you can prevent it: For home deliveries, get in touch with your mail carrier or shipping company and arrange for packages to be delivered when someone is present to sign for them. In addition to locking the doors and closing your shades or blinds, invest in a reliable home security alarm. Not only do they alert you if there’s a break-in attempt, but they may also be able to help you save money on your homeowners insurance plan. Many systems include cameras, which can help you keep an eye on all your home’s points of entry. Store all your gift items in the trunk when you’re shopping to hide them from view. You may also want to hide smaller purchases under the seats.
What insurance covers: Standard homeowners policies cover theft items that are stolen from inside or outside of your home. They cover theft of personal items once a certain deductible is met, which means the items stolen would need to be of a certain value for you to get any reimbursement. In this situation, the amount of coverage just depends on your specific policy.
However, when it comes to your car being broken into, things work a little differently. Car theft insurance is a thing, but it refers to your actual car being stolen or damaged in a break-in, not things being stolen from inside your car. In other words, your car insurance policy may cover damages to the car from a break-in like broken glass or damaged door locks, but the stolen gifts themselves would not be covered by your policy.
This is why regularly reviewing your insurance policies is so important, both auto and home. That way you’ll know for sure what coverage you have for car theft insurance and what might be best for home insurance to cover if an incident does occur.
The hazard: slips and falls leading to injury
A scenario: Sure, slips and falls can happen any time of the year, but they’re especially frequent during the holiday season and winter months. Maybe a neighbor stops by to drop off a holiday treat, or your delivery personnel is dropping off a package when all of a sudden, their feet slide out from under them on your icy walkway and you find youself calling 911.
How you can prevent it: The Mayo Clinic has several tips on how individuals can prevent a fall in the winter, from being cautious to wearing footwear with good traction. If you’re a homeowner, clear your walkways on an ongoing basis and salt (or sand) them as needed to keep them from getting icy. These steps will help protect those who might be visiting your property.
What insurance covers: Homeowners insurance includes liability exposure, which covers damage you cause to other people or their property—for example, someone getting injured on your property. It also includes medical payments to others, which helps pay medical bills if someone is injured on your property, regardless of who is at fault.
Have a safe holiday season
Now that you know more about holiday hazards, don’t forget to review your homeowners insurance coverage to make sure the policy you have is giving you the coverage you need to stay protected over the holidays. You can get a quote with Homesite to bundle with your auto insurance (learn more about bundling here), or log in to assess your coverage today.
From our Elephant Insurance team, we hope you and yours have a happy and safe holiday season this year!