‘Tis the season of good food, company and festivities. But some common hazards can keep your celebrations from being merry and bright if you don’t take the proper precautions.
A survey from insuranceQuotes.com reveals some major holiday mishaps Americans have experienced, along with tips on how to avoid them.
Not much can turn this wonderful time of the year into a tragedy quicker than a house fire. The survey found that 7.6 percent of Americans, or about 18 million people, have experienced a house fire from cooking accidents, Christmas trees or other decorations. The top three days for home fires caused by candles are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
To avoid such a calamity, place lit candles on stable surfaces away from flammable objects like curtains and where pets and kids can’t knock them over, says Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com’s senior analyst. Or, swap out real candles for electric ones to be even safer.
Help keep your Christmas tree from going up in flames by watering it often, says Adams. Avoid placing it near heaters or overloading it with lights. Artificial trees aren’t necessarily safer, Adams says, so take the same precautions.
When decorating around the house, don’t plug too many lights into one outlet, or sparks could fly. Also, get a good chimney-cleaning before roasting chestnuts on an open fire.
“When people are lighting their first big fire of the season, there could be debris in the chimney that catches fire,” says Adams. “You may not be aware of it until it has spread into your roof.”
2. Stolen Packages
Amazon Prime and free shipping promotions are a blessing during the hectic holiday season — but only if you receive your orders. Almost one in 10 Americans report having packages stolen from their doorsteps before they could open them, according to the survey.
“It’s becoming more of a problem,” Adams says, as online shopping increases. Fortunately, there are easy ways to prevent package theft. Have orders delivered to your workplace (if allowed) or on days and times when you will be home. If the option is available, only allow delivery with a signature. Some retailers also allow customers to pick up online orders at a local store.
Adams also recommends actively tracking your packages, such as having alerts sent to your phone, so you know when to expect one. If a package is stolen and the item is expensive, file a claim with your homeowners or renters insurance.
3. Car Accidents
This is the time of year when more people are driving in bad conditions to see family, go shopping or attend parties. That means more crashes. The survey found that 44 percent of Americans said they’d gotten into an accident during the holidays because of snow, ice or rain; heavy traffic; or speeding.
While you can’t control other drivers, there still are ways you can make a road trip safer. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and remain calm, says Adams. Avoid being on the road during the busiest days and times. And make sure you have plenty of auto insurance to cover any fender benders.
“Many people have only the minimum amount of liability coverage set by their state,” Adams says. In many cases, that’s not enough.
4. Home Injuries
Between parties and visiting relatives, families have more people in and out of their homes during the holidays. That can be a risk. About 7 million Americans have had a guest injured in their home during this festive time.
To prevent slips and spills, eliminate tripping hazards such as decorations and planters on porches and in entryways, Adam says. Keep your home well-lit, both inside and out. Secure rugs and any electric cords on the floor with tape.
Be a smart host. If you are serving alcohol, provide enough food and non-alcoholic beverages to help guests keep their partying under control. Five million people have gotten into an accident because they drank before getting behind the wheel, according to the survey.
“Depending on the state where you live, you can be held responsible if someone drank too much at your party and hurt someone or themselves,” Adams says.
5. Sewer Backup
Besides injuries, another guaranteed downer at your holiday party is a toilet that won’t flush. This is more common than you might think, according to the survey. One in five Americans say they have experienced a sewer backup during the holidays.
“I actually had this happen to me during a party,” says Adams who had to direct guests to a neighbor’s house to use the facilities. “Systems can be delicate and get overloaded with more flushes and running water.”
After her incident, Adams now has her septic system pumped before any party. She recommends the same thing for any homeowner that has a septic system with a history of problems. Otherwise, keep up with regular maintenance to prevent future issues and save yourself money.
“If you have to call a plumber on holiday to help you out, they will probably charge double rates,” Adams says. That could flush away money you had planned to spend on gifts.