Holiday Season Risks and Insurance Tips
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And after the year we’ve had, I think it’s safe to say we could all use some holiday cheer. At Encharter Insurance, it is all about protecting you, so we’ve pulled together our best holiday season tips to help you and your family stay safe, manage seasonal risk, and hopefully ease some of your stress during this holiday season.
Your celebrations may look a bit different this year, but if you plan on decorating or hosting during the holidays, you’ll want to read on to learn more about how keep your home safe and how insurance can help you manage the risks of the season.
Holiday Season Home Risks and Tips
The bottom line is that Christmas trees are wonderful… as long as you don’t neglect them! According to the National Fire Protection Association, Between 2013-2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
Dried out trees can ignite very quickly and are a leading cause of tree-related home fires. A real tree needs to be handled with care, in order to prevent a fire hazard in your home. To keep your tree healthy, follow these tips:
- Cut 2 inches off the base of the tree when you get it home, in order to allow the tree to take in water.
- Be sure to place the tree in a base that allows for ample water.
- Keep your tree watered continuously.
- For both real and artificial trees, it is important to check your Christmas lights to be sure they are all functioning properly.
- Keep the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat or ignition sources.
According to the NFPA, electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44% of home Christmas tree fires and in 25% of home tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree. Your homeowners insurance is no replacement for taking care of your tree and being fire smart, but it is something that can help protect you when the unexpected happens. Call your agent to make sure your policy is up-to-date and your limits accurately reflect your current situation, just in case.
This year will definitely be a popular one for online shopping, but this can open you up to risk if you’re not careful. When online shopping, do your research to make sure you’re shopping from reputable sites and be careful when opening emails from retailers you may not recognize or emails that look suspect. They could be a phishing scam.
For additional protection when shopping online, consider asking your insurance agent about adding identity theft protection to your homeowners insurance. Often, this can be added through your home or renters coverage for a low cost, though there are also standalone plans.
If you’ve been good this year and you’re lucky enough to be expecting a big, expensive gift, don’t forget to make sure it will be covered by your homeowners or renters insurance. Items like jewelry or art or antiques may have special limits under your policy, meaning that they may not be fully covered or even covered at all. If you get something big, give your insurance agent a call ASAP to ensure you have coverage before something happens!
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No matter what way you choose to decorate your home, it is crucial to make sure you do not create a safety hazard! Candles and lights will look nice, but can serve as a fire hazard if you are not careful. To avoid any holiday mishaps, it is a good idea to update your insurance policy. With homeowners insurance, you can prepare for how you’ll recover from a worst case scenario. A typical policy will cover the physical structure of your home, liability, personal possessions, replacement costs and additional living expenses. Your beautifully decorated home deserves the proper coverage this season!
Expensive gifts and long vacations are two key ingredients of the holiday season. On that note, it is no secret that home break-ins are common around this time of year. In order to keep your home protected from crime, it is important to remember a few things, such as increasing security features, hiding expensive gifts and revisiting your homeowners insurance to ensure you have adequate protection.
When looking at your homeowners insurance, your policy should be able to cover any loss of possessions and damages caused by a burglar. To prevent loss from theft, follow these tips:
- Always shut your garage, lock your doors and even windows.
- Have a friend or family member check on your home every day if you are going away this season.
- Keep lights on outside, even if you are not home. Making it look like you are around will keep burglars at bay.
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Gatherings this year will be fewer and farther between and certainly smaller than years’ past. No matter how small your celebration may be, if you welcome guests into your home, you are also potentially welcoming increased risk.
Chances are your party will involve lots of delicious food. If you are the one cooking and you serve food and everyone gets food poisoning you could be in trouble. If the food poisoning were to require medical attention, fortunately for you it would likely be covered by the medical payments coverage on your home insurance policy. Keep in mind when preparing your food to keep it at the appropriate temperatures, double check to make sure everything is properly cooked, and make sure it isn’t expired.
If you have a dog it may be best to keep it away from guests during your holiday party. Whether it is getting a dog-sitter or keeping your furry friend in a kennel, you’re really doing a favor for you and the dog. Even the best-behaved dog can get a little nervous around crowds. This nervousness can then quite easily turn into accidents. Once again, this would most likely be covered by your medical or liability coverage on your home insurance.
It’s not just the merriment inside your house that you need to worry about. Injuries on any part of your property could open you up to risk. For example, once there is snow or ice on your walkway or steps, there is a big risk for guests to slip and fall. If this did happen, and you were sued, that same liability and medical payments on your home insurance would cover you. To avoid winter slips and falls, here are some things to do before you host:
- Use rock salt
- Keep walkways shoveled
- Plenty of lighting (motion sensor lights, solar powered walk way lights)
- Keep icicles cleaned off above door ways
- Escort the elderly to their cars
If you serve alcoholic beverages in your home, you can be held accountable for an accident that your guests are involved in while intoxicated. Therefore, be willing to call a cab for your guests or offer to drive them home and have them pick up their vehicle the next day and be sure to offer non-alcoholic beverages for the guests who will be driving later on.
You may also want to purchase a higher liability insurance limit on your homeowners insurance policy or purchase a personal umbrella insurance policy to give your even higher limits of insurance. Your home insurance (or renters insurance / condo insurance) policy may cover you for host liquor liability – liability from serving liquor in your home to your guests. This depends on the carrier and the coverage form they are using. If you have the coverage, it applies as long as you do not charge for the alcohol you are serving.
There are a couple of situations in which your home is more susceptible to fires during a holiday party. The first may be if you are cooking. I can’t speak for everyone, but whenever I’m in the kitchen, there is a heightened risk for accidents. To avoid this, try not to leave food unattended, keep fire extinguishers handy, and be sure all of your smoke detectors are working.
From all of us at Encharter, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season and we hope these tips will help if you’ll be getting in the spirit this year!