The holiday season is in full swing. Parties galore, shopping ’til you drop, and far too much good food and drink. But in addition to the traditional festive cheer that ramps up around this time of year, you should be aware of traditional risks that also intensify around the holidays.
With a little preventive action and a solid home insurance policy, those risks can fade into the background, allowing you to enjoy these next few weeks to the fullest.
Now is a good time to review your personal insurance policies, making sure they’re up to snuff. While many of your risks are probably covered, a few might not be as explained below.
Personal Property & Buildings
Many risks to your home and family during the holiday season are covered by a good Homeowners’ or Condominium Insurance policy. In particular, the “Personal Property & Buildings” section of your policy probably insures against the following situations. And if you rent, your renters’ policy protects your belongings in these situations.
- Christmas tree fires - Holiday tree fires cause more than $14 million* of property damage each year. Even more frightening, when a Christmas tree fire occurs, the risk of death is unusually high compared to other fires.
- Cooking fires - Cooks multi-tasking in busy kitchens for parties or holiday meals can be distracted, increasing the likelihood of a kitchen fire.
- Fires started by candles - The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve, and candles trigger 8% of Christmas tree fires.
- Kids and matches - A timeless risk that should not be taken lightly.
- Fires resulting from blocked chimneys - Be honest: When’s the last time you had your flue cleaned?
- Fires caused by blocked dryer vents or faulty filters - Just keeping up with laundry during the holidays is a challenge, so you’re probably not thinking about the current state of your vent.
- Overloaded electrical equipment - Of the fires that start with Christmas trees, 43% are related to electrical equipment failure or malfunction, including holiday lighting.
- Theft - Homeowners’ and Renters’ Insurance policies cover more than fires, of course. For example, Homeowner’s covers loss of your personal belongings and damage to your property in a break-in situation. Renters’ covers loss of your personal belongings. Should your treasured items and holiday gifts be stolen, your insurance can lessen the sting of those losses.
* All fire statistics are from a November 2017 report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Another aspect of your Homeowners’ or Condominium Insurance — the “Personal Liability” component — protects you in the following situations.
- Injured guests - Trips and falls are extremely common causes of home-based accidents. The holidays present special challenges in this area, with furniture possibly moved out of its normal location to accommodate the tree and other decorations, as well as more friends, family and other visitors moving through your home than usual. Your Homeowners’ Insurance pays the medical expenses when a visitor to your home is injured, whether from a trip, fall or some other incident.
- “Over-celebrating” - Alcohol, fatigue and general merriment increase the likelihood of a guest ending up in harm’s way during a party or other gathering at your home. The worst nightmare for many hosts is a guest who drinks alcohol at your holiday party and then gets into a car accident on the way home, placing liability squarely on your shoulders.
Identity theft deserves a special mention. It’s a constant risk, of course, but especially so during heavy shopping periods like the holidays.
Your personal insurance does not automatically cover identity theft. Be sure to talk to your insurance agents about this to be sure you have protection.
How to Avoid Holiday Claims
Even though insurance is there like a warm blanket of protection, do you really want to deal with damage, injury or loss on top of everything else happening around the holidays? Of course not. The following tips suggest simple steps you can take to keep your family and your home safe.
- Decorate with Care
- Do not place flammable items near heaters or fires.
- Never leave candles unattended, and keep candles at least one foot away from anything that might burn; there are more than 8,000 home candle fires each year.
- If you have a live Christmas tree, water it every day and remove it after December 31.
- Discourage Theft
- Install outside lights.
- Always lock your doors.
- Utilize smart technology for home security.
- Do not leave gifts in plain sight.
- Make sure delivered packages are picked up as soon as possible.
- If you travel, have a neighbor watch your home.
- Host Safe Holiday Parties
- Limit the use of alcohol.
- Have plenty of food.
- Cut people off if needed.
- Take keys upfront if you have concerns.
- Offer a ride home if a guest is impaired.
- Reduce Your Chance of Identity Theft
- Keep credit cards in your wallet or purse at all times, except when being processed at a store’s cash register.
- Only carry one or two credit cards with you when shopping.
- Only buy from online retailers you trust.
- Choose “credit” over “debit” if possible.
- Review your credit card statements soon after they arrive; don’t wait until the holiday rush is over.
For more tips on keeping your holiday season safe, see the NFPA’s tip sheets on Winter Holiday Safety and Christmas Tree Safety.
Note: The information above is general advice. Insurance coverage varies from policy to policy. All claims are subject to policy terms and conditions.