8 Most Common Holiday Disasters
We all look forward to gathering around, laughing and singing, dancing and eating. But the holidays are also ripe with accidents and disasters none of us anticipate. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the most common injuries during the Christmas season include lacerations, choking, food poisoning, electrocutions, and burns. Also common are trips and falls in the driveway or walkway of the home, falls from ladders while decorating, overloaded electrical outlets and drunk driving accidents.
Below we break down by incident some other common dangers that coexist with Christmas trees, menorah candles, and holiday cheer. Take a few minutes to read so that you do not have to file a homeowners insurance claim this year.
1. Kitchen Fire
Thanksgiving and Christmas are the holidays with the highest number of home insurance claims. During this time of the year, many inexperienced cooks are trying their hand at cooking a big bird for the first time in their lives. Some are caught completely off-guard when a grease fire breaks out. That is not to say that seasoned cooks don’t face the same danger. Most people are unsure of how to contain a kitchen fire. Some wrongly assume that water will put out a small fire only to see that dousing the flames in water only causes the fire to spread.
4 ways to prevent a serious fire in the home:
- Install smoke detectors (make sure they are working)
- Clean your oven before using it. Caked-on food particles cause fires.
- Never deep fry a turkey inside the house, garage or shed. Take it outside!
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen always.
- Never leave food unattended while it’s cooking.
If you do experience a small fire:
- Avoid throwing water at it.
- Cut off the flame’s oxygen by closing the oven door, covering the flaming pan with a lid or another pot.
- Use the fire extinguisher on the flame if it won’t go out.
- Call 911 if you can’t contain the fire.
Candles have religious and nonspiritual significance, but they are especially important during the holidays. Menorahs, votive candles and scented candles are lit up in many homes but can be dangerous when left unattended, especially when children are within reach. Decorating Christmas trees with candles is foolish, and leaving candles on the front stoop is also highly discouraged. So keep these tips from the National Candle Association in mind if you use candles:
- Keep candles out of reach of pets and children.
- Never burn a candle near anything that can catch fire, especially a Christmas tree.
- Keep hair and lose clothing away from the flame.
- Never touch or move a candle while it’s burning or the wax is liquified.
- Don’t burn a candle all the way down.
- Place candles apart by 3 inches or so.
- Extinguish a candle if the flame flickers repeatedly or goes too high.
- Extinguish all candles before getting into bed.
- Use a candle snuffer to prevent hot wax from splattering.
- Do not use water to extinguish a candle; the wax may splatter.
- Do not use sharp objects to remove wax drippings. It may cause the glass to weaken and break the next time you use it.
3. Christmas Tree Safety
Buy a fresh tree. If the needles are falling off or it looks dry in sections, it’s going to be a fire risk. Buy a very green and fresh-smelling tree.
To avoid a fire, water your tree regularly. A dry Christmas tree is a flammable Christmas tree. In fact, the leaves a highly-flammable oil that can spontaneously combust without even the slightest contact with a candle or match.
Avoid using cheap Christmas lights. Both artificial and real trees need good light. Cheap ones often short circuit, which is a serious fire hazard. In fact, the leading cause of Christmas tree fires is electrical distribution or lighting equipment. Check to see if the label states that it has been tested at a recognized testing lab. Also, don’t use outdoor lights inside and vice versa. Do not use if bulbs have loose connections or are broken. Worn cords are a recipe for a fire so throw those out right away!
Keep the tree away from heat sources. These include fireplaces, radiators, heating lamps, candles, heat vents or lights.
Never use candles to decorate a tree. Use fake candle bulbs if you must but do not use real candles on a tree.
After Christmas. Get rid of the tree as soon as it starts getting dry. Dried trees are a fire danger. They should not be kept in the home, garage or even placed against the home.
4. Lighting Safety
- Never use indoor lights outside. And vice versa.
- Use outdoor-rated light bulbs. Indoor ones are not made for the outdoors.
- Use the correct wattage bulb. Don’t overdo it thinking it’s fine. It’s a fire hazard.
- Use outdoor-rated extension cords. Indoor ones are not made for outdoor use.
- Keep lights away from flammable materials. As they heat up, they may combust when in contact with dried leaves, hay or fabric.
- Do not remove the grounding plug to use it in a two-prong outlet. There is a reason that grounding plus is there: to prevent fire.
A fireplace that has been neglected is dangerous. If it has poor ventilation, it can cause death. Three very serious problems arise from using a poorly maintained chimney (carbon monoxide poisoning, chimney fires and premature failure of the fireplace and chimney), so if you haven’t had your fireplace serviced in years, don’t decide to use it spur of the moment on Christmas. Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned thoroughly each year before you use it.
6. Weight of Snow on Roof
There’s nothing worse than sitting around with loved ones only to experience the roof caving in. Most roofs can withstand 20 pounds per square foot of snow. Ten inches of fresh snow weighs about five pounds per square foot. So, about four feet is all it can support. To prevent ice dams you should clear your roof after every 6” of snowfall. But if you want to only avoid roof collapse, make sure to rake your roof after 12” or so of snowfall.
If children will be in attendance, take care to keep mistletoe, poinsettias, and Oleander out of reach. These holiday favorites are poison, with Oleander as the strongest one that could kill a small child. You may also be surprised to know that the Christmas tree may set off congestion, even asthma attacks from pollen and mold.
8. Protect an Empty Home
- You may be out of town, leaving your home unattended. First, you’ll want to make sure to lock up your house and back gate. Turn on your alarm and surveillance system if you have them. If you don’t, you should seriously consider a camera or video system that may also lower your home insurance rate.
- It’s also a good idea to let your neighbors know that you will be out for the evening so that they may also keep an eye on a strange activity they may notice. This way, they can call the police immediately if they think someone seems suspicious and is lingering around your home for too long.
- Lighting timers are also a great way to make people outside think you’re home. You can schedule the timer to turn the lights around your home on and off at specific times.
Luckily, there’s homeowners insurance to take care of these costly disasters if they do happen. However, if you’re not protected with home insurance, you’ll have to pay for accidents on your own. If it’s a serious one that requires a hospital visit or stays, costs may be in the thousands. You should buy homeowners insurance for many reasons, but make extra sure you are covered with higher limits for the holidays.
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