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Too Much Holiday Spirit? Watch Out For Common Festive Home Hazards

Referred to by some as the most wonderful time of the year, the holidays present several hazards to your home and loved ones. For example, nearly 47,000 fires occur during the holiday season, with 500 fatalities and more than 2,200 injuries. Ultimately, these incidents cost homeowners over $550 million in property damages.

While you may not want to think about the risks involved in your festivities, thinking them through and taking a few simple safety precautions can help you enjoy your holidays risk-free. Read on to learn more.

Beware of Seasonal Home Fire Hazards

In 2021, 75% of all US fire deaths were caused by home fires, causing an estimated $15.9 billion in damage. In fact, December and January are the peak months for home fires, caused by an uptick in people using fireplaces, candles, hot lights and spending more time cooking during the holidays.

Given these risks, house fires can markedly increase your insurance premiums. However, many home fires are easily preventable yet are one of the leading causes of home fatalities. Therefore, while homeowners policies are invaluable, avoiding filing a claim altogether is still preferable.

Common Holiday Home Risks

The majority of home insurance policies cover several common holiday home risks. Here’s a look at several of these risks and the preventative measures you can take to protect your home.

Fireplace Mistakes

Fireplaces are intended for short-duration use only and should only be used if properly maintained. Some of these maintenance techniques include:

  • Clearing the interior of the fireplace
  • Removing soot from the floor of the fireplace
  • Inspecting your chimney for cracks or breakage
  • Hiring a professional chimney sweep

Further, to avoid carbon monoxide and other poisonous gas from permeating your home, ensure you burn the right variety of wood. Consider utilizing seasoned hardwood, such as oak, maple, and birch. Additionally, make sure you have functional, activated carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in your home.

Quick Tips to Keep Your Home and Family Safe

  • Be sure the flue or damper is open before lighting a fire, then close it once it’s out.
  • Keep all fire tools, lighters, and matches out of children’s reach.
  • Consider installing a blower and heatproof glass door to create a better barrier and ventilation system in the fireplace area.

Christmas Tree Fires

Christmas trees are a source of fuel, especially when dried out. US Fire Departments respond to about 160 home fires per year started by Christmas trees. These fires resulted in an annual average of two deaths, 14 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage between 2015 to 2019.

To reduce the risk of fire, we recommend carefully considering where you place your Christmas tree and how you decorate it. Given that sources of heat, such as candles, lights, or radiators, may be set and stored on or near your tree, ensure you inspect the area where you plan to set your tree to ensure it’s safe.

Further, you may want to consider investing in an artificial Christmas tree. While they do not provide the same pleasing scent as a traditional Christmas tree, they do provide some benefits. Often artificial trees are flame retardant, meaning they are less susceptible to starting fires. Additionally, artificial trees also do not shed dry needles, which ar a fire hazard.

Quick Tips to Keep Your Home and Family Safe

  • Choose a fresh tree, make a fresh cut, and water it daily.
  • Keep the tree away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, radiators, and portable heaters.

Christmas Light Short Circuits

Christmas lights cause an average of 770 fires per year. A common cause of these fires is an electrical fault or short circuit. This is when faulty wiring leads to overheating. The short circuit risk for indoor lights is the same as for outdoor lights.

LED lights are generally safer than incandescent lights. LEDs are brighter, consume less energy, emit less heat, and are more durable.

Quick Tips to Keep Your Home and Family Safe

  • Inspect all the light strands you plan to use and discard any damaged strands.
  • Before you decorate your tree, inspect all light strands. Check each bulb and replace any loose or broken bulbs with the correct ones. Throw out any frayed or damaged light strands.
  • Distribute light strands across several outlets.
  • Plug the light strands into a surge protector.
  • When selecting LEDs, avoid retail-grade LED lights and use professional-grade LEDs, as these use higher-quality electrical components.

Candle Placement

With candles, you’ll want to ensure the flame is kept clear of any other objects: in 3 of every 5 candle fires, the candle was too close to a flammable object. Similarly, we recommend keeping all burning objects within your line of sight, taking special care to avoid exceeding the specified burn time. Even if you can’t keep your eyes on your candle at all times, placing your candle on or in a flame-retardant container (such as glass) adds an extra layer of protection.

Quick Tips to Keep Your Home and Family Safe

  • Candle placement is key: avoid drafty and high-traffic areas, and always place candles on a solid, heat-resistant surface.
  • Keep candles out of reach of children and pets, and keep the wax pool free of dust and debris.
  • To avoid injury, use long lighters, which are safer than pocket lighters. Inspect your carbon monoxide detector(s) to ensure efficacy and replace the batteries when needed.

Cooking Fires

Because many people celebrate the holidays by cooking involved, time-consuming dishes, kitchen fires are a more significant risk during the holiday season. Most kitchen fires stem from cooktops or ranges, accounting for 87% of cooking fire deaths and 78% of cooking fire injuries. Note also that damages from kitchen fires can often extend throughout an entire home in the form of smoke damage. 

Quick tips to Keep Your Home and Family Safe

  • Keep all kitchen appliances clean, as food debris and grease can easily catch fire.
  • When cooking, never leave your stovetop or oven unattended.
  • While it’s fun to socialize when prepping a meal, minimize distractions as much as possible in the kitchen.
  • When not in use, unplug all appliances, as these still draw power and can malfunction even when turned off.

Celebrate Safely and Prevent Holiday Mishaps

No one wants to experience any mishaps at home, especially during the holidays. Ensure the safety of your home, your loved ones, and yourself by taking preventative measures. While your home insurance policy is there to protect you should the worst occur, preventing any damage in the first place is far better — that way, you can genuinely and safely enjoy the holidays.