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Santa Claus and his nine reindeer try their luck when they soar into the night sky on Christmas Eve. But you can reduce your own disaster risk if you know what to look out for while on vacation.
The problems could start right in your driveway. Historically, car thieves do not take vacation time off. In fact, New Years Day is the No. 1 holiday for auto theft, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Here are some other vacation problems to avoid.
Fires involving trees and Christmas lights
A home insurance policy covers fires in and around your home, including a Christmas tree fire.
Data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates that Christmas tree fires are not common, but they can be fatal.
Between 2014 and 2018, U.S. firefighters responded to an average of 160 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees, according to the NFPA. These fires have caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries and $ 10 million in property damage each year.
During the period 2014 to 2018, 45% of home Christmas tree fires involved electrical or lighting equipment, according to the NFPA.
Two of the easiest ways to protect your home from the dangers of fire during the holiday season is to make sure your smoke detectors are working properly and to only put up an artificial tree if it is fire resistant.
The NFPA offers these additional recommendations to prevent your home from becoming the scene of a fire:
- Choose a living Christmas tree with cool green needles that won’t fall out when you touch them.
- Place your tree at least 3 feet from all heat sources, such as lights, fireplaces, radiators, candles, and heat registers.
- Add water daily to the support for a living tree.
- Use tree lights that bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- Replace string lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
- Do not use lighted candles to decorate the tree.
- Turn off the lights on the Christmas tree before you leave your house or go to bed.
- Remove your living tree after Christmas or when it dries up. Withered trees present a fire hazard.
Also, be careful when climbing a ladder to hang Christmas lights and decorations. Falls cause thousands of holiday decoration injuries every year.
Your home insurance policy will cover kitchen fires, which is a good thing because there are a lot of them during the holidays.
Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are two of the most festive days of the year. They are also among the first five days for home kitchen fires, according to 2018 data collected by the NFPA. On Christmas Day that year, the U.S. Fire Department received reports of 740 home kitchen fires. On Christmas Eve, the total was 650. In 2018, the average daily home kitchen fire was 470.
Unfortunately, these fires can do more than ruin a turkey or a ham. From 2014 to 2018, home kitchen fires averaged 550 deaths per year, as well as 4,820 injuries and $ 1.2 billion in property damage, according to the NFPA.
About 4 in 10 household fires occur in the kitchen. Therefore, it is essential to keep these safety recommendations in mind when preparing festive meals:
- Stay in the kitchen. You might want to go to the living room to watch football or chat with parents while the food is cooking in the kitchen, but it’s a dangerous move. Stay in the kitchen while you cook. Even if you are leaving the kitchen for a short time, turn off the stove. Unattended cooking is the number one cause of kitchen fires and losses.
- Stay alert. If you are sleepy or have drunk too much wine, have someone else take care of the stove.
- Look at the food. Check foods regularly while cooking and set timers as reminders.
Keep children away. Create a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drinks are prepared or served.
Accidents involving vacationers
Accidents at home can certainly put a damper on the holiday spirit. Your Uncle Al can break his arm when he slips and falls on your ice-covered steps as he arrives for Christmas Eve dinner. Or your Aunt Sally might get too bubbly on New Years Eve, then get behind the wheel of her SUV and cause an accident.
Your home insurance includes coverage for guest injuries. If it’s a small injury, you may want to use the medical payments coverage in your home insurance policy. Claims under this coverage can be made quickly as the insurer will not need to determine who is at fault. But the coverage limits for medical payments can be low, like $ 1,000.
For more expensive guest injuries, home insurance policies offer liability coverage of at least $ 100,000. (You can increase this liability limit and / or add umbrella insurance for additional coverage.) If you are sued by a guest, liability coverage also pays for your legal defense.
Now consider Aunt Sally’s drunk driving accident.
As a social host, you can be responsible for the actions of Sally or any other guest who gets drunk in your home. This means that you can be sued if a drunk guest leaves and causes an accident.
Some home insurance policies provide alcohol liability coverage (assuming it is not alcohol served to a minor). But don’t assume yours does. Contact your home insurance agent to confirm; If your policy does not cover you as a host for alcohol liability, you may be able to add a “host alcohol” endorsement and make sure you are covered.
Here are a few ways to prevent your home from becoming a vacation danger zone:
- Clear snow and ice from walkways, walkways and stairs before guests arrive.
- Make sure the outside lights are working.
- Apply double-sided tape or use non-slip mats to make sure area rugs are secure and don’t turn into trip and fall hazards.
- Remove clutter like toys, linens, and wrapping paper to reduce the chance of a guest slipping or tripping.
- Clean up spills as soon as possible so a guest does not slip on slippery floors.
Above all, do not allow a visibly intoxicated visitor to get behind the wheel of their car. If you let this visitor go away, you could be held responsible for a car accident for which they are responsible.
The Insurance Information Institute offers these additional recommendations for avoiding alcohol-fueled vacation disasters:
- Encourage guests who have been drinking to return home with a designated sober driver. If that’s not possible, arrange a taxi or carpool, or invite a drunk guest to stay overnight with you.
- Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks to reduce the risk of poisoning your guests.