As the holidays approach and the merriment gets underway, don’t forget to keep your home safe from fires, injuries and burglaries.
Homeowner’s insurance claims spike in November and December every year, most of them due to fires as you start sprucing up your home for the holiday season, so keep an eye out for these common holiday trip-ups, fire hazards and other safety snafus.
1. Light safety
- When purchasing light strings, extension cords, spotlights, electrical decorations, gas appliances or carbon monoxide alarms, look for the certification mark of an accredited organization such as CSA International, UL or ELT.
- Inspect holiday light strings each year and discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders or loose connections.
- When replacing bulbs, unplug the light string and be sure to match voltage and wattage to the original bulb.
- Always turn off interior holiday lights when you leave the house unattended or when going to bed.
- When hanging outdoor lights, keep electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal rain gutters. Use insulated tape or plastic clips instead of metal nails or tacks to hold them in place.
- Choose the correct ladder for the job and double check for a certification mark to ensure your portable ladder complies with applicable standards.
2. Indoor electrical safety
Try to purchase a freshly cut tree, as they are more resistant to ignition. Keep your tree watered. Both real and artificial trees should be kept away from open candles, heaters and fireplaces.
Don’t overload your outlets. They have two plugs in them for a reason, so stick to plugging two things into each outlet. When decorating for the holidays this can get frustrating because of course you want to plug in lots of strands of lights to make your indoors and outdoors look festive and bright.
Never connect more than one extension cord together; instead use a single cord that is long enough to reach the outlet without stretching, but not so long that it can get easily tangled.
Always turn the inside lights in your windows out before you go to bed.
3. Fire safety
Don’t use your gas fireplace if the glass panel is removed, cracked or broken, and only allow a qualified service person to replace fireplace parts.
Make sure you’ve had your wood-burning fireplace inspected and cleaned before using it during the winter.
Be sure the fireplace flue is open before you light the fire. Keep evergreen boughs, paper and decorations away from the fireplace.
Don’t burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace and always use a fireplace screen.
Keep candles at least a foot away from anything flammable. Make sure candles are in stable holders that can’t be easily knocked down, and never leave burning candles unattended.
4. Don’t forget…
There are a number of other safety issues to consider during the busy holidays:
Secure your tree — Make sure your tree is properly secured with a strong stand that doesn’t lean. If you have a fresh tree, don’t whittle or taper the trunk to fit your stand; this makes the tree less stable.
Check your alarms — Test your smoke alarms monthly to make sure they work, and be sure to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home — especially near sleeping areas.
Kitchen fires — Don’t leave cooking unattended. When using the stovetop, stay in the kitchen so you can keep an eye on the food. If you have something in the oven, check on it frequently; set a timer as a reminder.
Thwart thieves — Be extra careful about locking doors and windows when you leave home — particularly if you’re traveling to relatives. Consider:
- Leaving the radio or TV on so it seems like someone is home.
- Keeping indoor lights on a timer to turn on when it gets dark.
- Not openly displaying gifts in a room that’s visible from your front windows.
- Asking someone to pick up your mail or newspaper if you’ll be gone for a longer than normal periods
- Not hiding your spare key in obvious places. Burglars know to look under doormats, rocks, flowerpots and above the door.