While the holiday season can certainly be the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also one of the most dangerous periods annually. From potential driving risks to burglary to Christmas tree fires, there’s plenty that could go wrong. These holiday safety tips from your friendly neighborhood insurance agent at Chapman Insurance will ensure you and yours have a safe, happy holiday season.
Don’t be a traffic statistic.
The National Safety Council predicts nearly 800 holiday traffic fatalities on U.S. roadways just during the eight-day Christmas and New Year periods. During the TWO four-day holiday periods marking Christmas and New Year’s, the NSC also forecast that at least 84,000 people will be injured severely enough in traffic accidents to require medical attention.
A number of factors can contribute to these vehicle-related accidents. First, gas prices are significantly low at the moment, which indicates that roadways will be flooded with additional cars and drivers. Additionally, inexperienced drivers who might not usually drive in snow each day are also a hazard.
And it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that while holiday ‘spirits’ are high, blood-alcohol levels often are, too. NEVER, ever drink and drive. Festive holiday punches and eggnog blends often mask the true alcohol content in a given beverage – so even a seasoned drinker might not realize their intoxication until it’s too late.
Fortunately across the country, safe options abound for transportation. We’re big fans of the new ride-sharing service Uber (not without its own set of dangers, so use at your own risk), and some companies like Anheuser-Busch also sponsor Safe Ride programs. Determine your ride home BEFORE heading to a holiday party or the bars.
Do protect your home and family from fire.
Sometimes it can hard to let go of the holiday spirit. Taking down the Christmas tree isn’t nearly as much fun as putting it up… which might be why holiday trees are still part of your decor in February. But the longer a tree stays up, the greater a fire hazard it becomes. It’s best to discard trees within one month after purchase, and to take it to a tree recycling center or have it hauled away by a community waste removal service.
Some folks like to burn their Christmas trees, but we recommend never to burn Christmas trees (branches or needles) in a fireplace or wood stove. Firs and pines have lots of sap, which can explode. The needles burn like tinder, quickly and fiercely. Flames can flare up out of control and send sparks flying across a room.
After gifts are opened, quickly and safely discard wrapping paper and packaging. Wrapping paper is very flammable, burning very hot with large flames, so never burn it in the fireplace or wood stove. Some gift wrap contains material that can throw off dangerous sparks and/or cause a dangerous chemical buildup in the air of your house.
Remove outdoor lights as soon as the season is over; they are not designed for prolonged exposure to the elements, especially in winter weather. Careful handling when you’re taking them down and repacking will reduce the chances of damaging a good set of lights.
Candles other than jar candles must be used in an appropriate non-tipping, non-flammable holder. Make sure that candle containers and holders are made from tempered glass or have a proper glaze. All candles should be placed on a safe, heat-resistant dry surface. If possible, place glass chimneys or shades over them.
For Christmas luminarias, use 15-hour votive candles in holders, placed in paper bags filled with at least 2″ of sand. The candle must be of a size to allow adequate space between the candle and bag so as not to ignite the bag.
Don’t forget to insure valuable gifts immediately.
Consider taking advantage of offered warranties or guarantees, but don’t mistake them for insurance. For example, some major chains offer limited guarantees on stone replacement or repairs. This is great as the store is in business and you comply with the terms of the guarantee agreement. But in case of loss or theft, it’s unlikely that the store will help you. Talk with us at Chapman Insurance about the best options to protect your valuable treasures.
Be sure to insure your expensive purchases to value, not just what you paid. Doorbuster specials may enable you to get a remarkable price on an item, but if you only insure for the price paid, you may not be able to get that same deal if you have to replace it later. The value of precious metals and gemstones fluctuates, so getting an appraisal can help you and your agent determine the appropriate amount of insurance. (And, don’t hesitate to ask your jeweler to provide a free appraisal as a way to close the deal. It never hurts to ask, and the cost of an appraisal may be worth it to the jeweler to make the sale!)
Take photos of new valuables, and have it ready – along with copies of the receipt, serial number, appraisal or certificate – when you talk to us about the right coverage for your items.
Get to know your policy’s limits. Coverage for expensive electronics differs from the protection for a diamond bracelet. We at Chapman Insurance can help you understand your policy and customize it to make sure it protects all of your valuables, whether the item is something you watch, listen to or wear.
Consider insuring the gift as soon as you purchase it and before you present it. Sometimes this is an important step that gets lost in the excitement. And that way, you’re also giving an extra gift that lets the recipient know, “It’s already taken care of.”
Do ensure your child and family’s safety on new tablets, smartphones, and computers.
Are you giving the gift of electronics this season?
Set ground rules about how much time during the day they can spend on the device. Establish who your children may call and message. Discuss how to behave respectfully online.
With devices come apps that often involve setting up a profile and sharing information around common interests or activities. These apps can be fun and addicting, but intimidating to the unfamiliar. Research the apps your child uses.
The National Crime Prevention Council shares these tips to help your child think before he or she posts:
- Should I share this? Will the information I share put me or someone else in danger?
- Do people really need to know where I am and who I am with? Is it a good idea to let everyone know my exact location?
- Am I selecting online friends that I can trust? It’s not just about what I post, but how others may use that content.
- Is the information I am sharing transparent? Before I share information to the public, does my post give out too much personal information?
Even parents are often guilty of “oversharing.” Posting on Facebook that you’re away from your home for two weeks may invite burglars. Consider applying the NCPC tips to your own social media activity!
Following these guidelines should be a breeze for the responsible homeowner. From our home to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!