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How to Avoid Holiday Hazards: Home Safety Tips for the Holidays

How to Avoid Holiday Hazards: Home Safety Tips for the Holidays

The holiday season is a special time of the year when we get the chance to gather with family and friends, enjoy delicious food, and share in the festive spirit. However, with fun and festivity comes some increased safety risks. You can avoid holiday hazards by following these safety tips to keep you, your home and your loved ones safe this holiday season.

 Holiday lights

 There’s nothing like twinkling lights to add a festive sparkle to your home, but holiday lighting can pose a serious hazard if not installed and cared for properly. If you plan on lighting up the interior and/or exterior of your home this season you must make sure of the following:
  • Lights are plugged into a surge protector to prevent power overload.
  • Lights are never left unattended. Unplug all holiday lights before going to sleep, and before leaving your home.
  • Electrical outlets are not overloaded with too many lighting and/or extension cords.
  • Extension cords are not connected together. Instead, use a longer extension cord that wraps close to the wall where it will not pose a tripping hazard.
  • Cords and plugs are frequently inspected for damage and replaced as needed. Frayed wires that come into contact with a metal ornament or hook are a shock risk.
  • Lights are not clustered in bunches – doing so creates excessive heat that can melt wire coating and expose live wires.
  • Lights are strung through hooks, or secured with plastic clips or insulated tape. Mounting lights with nails, tacks or staples could damage the cord’s insulation, risking electrocution or fire.
  • All smoke alarms are working correctly and have new batteries installed. Any smoke alarm older than ten years should be replaced.

 Decorations

 Who can pass up the opportunity of turning their home into an indoor winter wonderland? Holiday decorating can be fun for people of all ages, but it’s important to be mindful of what decorations you choose to deck the halls of your home with:
  • Opt for decorations that are non-combustible, flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Choose battery-powered candles instead of real flame candles whenever possible. If you do decide to use real candles, ensure that they are kept in stable holders away from other decorations – especially your tree – as well as out of reach of any children or pets. Never leave a lit candle unattended.
  • If you expect to be sharing your home with children at any point over the holidays you should avoid decorations that are sharp, breakable, have small parts or could be mistaken for food or candy.
  • Avoid placing exterior decorations anywhere that might impede walking paths.
  • Keep railings clear so you and your holiday visitors can grab onto them for stability when necessary.
  • Rooftop decorations like an inflatable Santa and reindeer may seem like a fun idea, but they can quickly become a safety hazard in inclement weather.
  • Plan on decking your halls with boughs of holly? Real holly and mistletoe can be poisonous to humans and animals alike. Ensure that any holly or mistletoe plants are kept out of reach from little ones and furry friends.

Trees

Having a festive fir tree inside your home can fill your living space with the fragrant scent of fresh winter pine. However, having a live tree inside your home comes with a series of safety precautions that need to be followed:

  • Try to purchase a freshly cut tree, as it will have a higher moisture content and therefore reduce the risk of fire. Most trees dry out approximately two weeks after purchase, at which point it’s time to discard them.
  • If you choose to purchase an artificial tree instead of a live tree make sure that you choose one that is fire-retardant.
  • Choose a spot for your tree that is a good distance away from any source of heat – such as a radiator, fireplace, heat vent, space heater or television. It should also be out of the way of high-traffic areas in your home, such as doorways.
  • If you choose to decorate your tree with lights make sure that they are all in good working condition and are never left on unattended.
  • Water your tree daily. The base of the tree’s trunk should be submerged at all times. If you notice that the tree’s needles are brown, or if they fall easily, it’s a sign that your tree is likely too dry and can quickly become a fire hazard.
  • Opt for a sturdy tree stand to steady the base and avoid the risk of the tree tipping over.

Fireplaces

 There’s nothing like spending a cozy evening curled up next to the fireplace with a steaming mug of hot cocoa. Here’s how to stay safe while enjoying your picturesque winter holiday scene:

  • Have a qualified professional perform an annual maintenance check of your fireplace and chimney. Your fireplace should be properly maintained and your chimney cleaned before you light your first fire of the holidays.
  • If you have a wood-burning fireplace, use split hardwood, as it is the safest firewood option.
  • Do not throw wrapping paper, boxes or cardboard packages into your fireplace. These items ignite very quickly and burn intensely – which could result in a flash fire.
  • Never leave a lit fireplace unattended – not even when it is smoldering out.
  • Remove hanging stockings or any other holiday decorations placed nearby before turning the fireplace on.
  • If you will be sharing your home with little ones or pets during the holidays you should place a safety gate around the fireplace – regardless of whether it is wood burning or gas. The glass pane on a gas fireplace can heat to over 200 C (400 F) in just over five minutes and can stay hot for hours after it has been turned off – posing a serious burn hazard.
  • Ensure that you have carbon monoxide alarms (CO2 detectors) installed on every level of your home and definitely around all sleeping areas. Like your smoke detectors, these alarms should be tested monthly and replaced when necessary.

By following these safety precautions you can help to keep yourself, your home and your loved ones safe this holiday season.

However, sometimes accidents happen – even to the most prepared and cautious homeowners. That’s why it’s important to know that you have the right amount of coverage if a holiday hazard were to result in disaster.

If you have any questions about your existing home coverage contact your OTIP insurance broker at 1-888-892-4935.

Happy Holidays!