The smell of freshly baked cookies and the sight of twinkling lights throughout your neighborhood can only mean one thing – the holiday season is here. Decorating your home, opening stockings by the fire, lighting the menorah, or toasting to the New Year with friends and family are festivities many people look forward to every year.
While there is plenty of fun to be had during the holiday season, there’s also an increased chance for something to go wrong if you’re not cautious or well prepared. From home fires and snow damage to theft and home burglaries, there are plenty of problems that can arise. Keep these home safety tips in mind this winter so you can be as safe as possible for the festivities to come.
Holiday Light Safety
Few traditions are more beloved than stringing lights throughout your home during the holiday season. While lights can certainly put you in the holiday spirit, they can be one of the most dangerous decorations. In fact, holiday lights are responsible for around 40% of Christmas tree fires. Before decking the halls, consider these precautions:
- Replace light strands that are old, fraying, or have exposed wires.
- Never plug more than three strands into one extension cord.
- Never string together multiple extension cords.
- Use light clips rather than nails or screws as they can conduct electricity.
- Secure loose light strands to avoid pulling or tugging by pets or children.
- Use LED lights over incandescent lights; they use less energy and are less likely to start fires from emitting too much heat. LED lights can also save money on energy bills.
- Never run lights through doors or windows.
- Turn off lights when you leave your home, or be sure to keep lights on a timer.
- Keep your tree properly hydrated; dry and dying trees are more likely to result in fires.
More often than not, you’ll need to use a ladder if you plan to decorate outdoor trees, the front of your home, light posts, or any other structure far from the ground. When using a ladder to hang outdoor lights:
- Wear slip-resistant shoes.
- Choose the proper size ladder; don’t attempt to stand on the top of the ladder or stack one ladder on top of another.
- Work with a partner to hold the ladder as an extra safety measure.
- If possible, avoid using metal ladders to prevent an electric shock.
To further prevent accidents during decoration set-up or take-down, consider hiring a professional holiday decorating service in your area. This can be especially helpful if you don’t have the proper tools and equipment to do so yourself.
The risk of home fires is highest during the holiday season, so installing smoke detectors becomes even more critical during this time of year. If you already have these installed, be sure to test them and replace the batteries if needed. Now may also be a good time to upgrade to a smart smoke detector that sends alerts directly to your phone.
- Always put out candles if you intend on being out of the room for an extended period of time.
- Keep decorative candles and/or menorahs at least 3 feet away from flammable objects and out of reach from kids and pets.
- Never put real candles on Christmas trees.
- Ensure candles are placed in a sturdy holder and on flat surfaces.
- Have a professional chimney sweep and furnace inspection annually.
- Avoid hanging stockings, garlands, or other dangling holiday decorations near heating sources like fireplaces or space heaters while they’re in use.
- Don’t toss wrapping paper into the indoor fireplace.
- Ensure your home has a properly functioning carbon monoxide detector near every sleeping area.
- Always watch what you are cooking. Unattended cooking is the most common cause of fires in the kitchen.
- Have a fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen.
- If you decide to get a live tree, be sure it’s watered sufficiently and frequently. If you opt for an artificial tree, ensure that it’s flame retardant.
- Place trees as far away from heat sources, such as fireplaces or space heaters, as possible.
- Once the holiday season has ended, or your live tree becomes too dry or dead, dispose of it right away as it can quickly become highly flammable.
- Only light fireworks away from your home and buildings, as well as bushes, trees, or other vegetation.
- Don’t relight fireworks that fail to explode.
- Follow all local laws and regulations.
While the holiday season is supposed to be about spreading joy, theft and burglary rates are known to spike during this time of year. To prevent your home from being a burglar’s next culprit, step up your security game and consider these home safety tips:
- If your tree is visible from a window, don’t display gifts under it.
- Make sure you are home for package deliveries if possible. If you can’t be home, consider sending high-value items to the post office instead.
- When bringing home gifts, always unload your car in the garage with the door closed and don’t leave gifts in your car overnight.
- Make sure doors and windows are always locked and secure.
- If you’ll be traveling, put lights on timers and let your family members or most trustworthy neighbors know so that they can keep an eye on your property, shovel your driveway, or pick up your newspapers to maintain the impression that someone is home.
- Never post about travel plans on social media.
If you don’t have a home security system, now may be the right time to invest in one. With the rise in home automation choices available, it’s become easier and more affordable to keep a remote eye on your property. There are plenty of smart home tech devices that can help you keep your home safe and secure this holiday season; such as smart locks, video camera doorbells, and security cameras. If you plan to be away and don’t have someone to look over your home, there’s also smart home lighting, thermostats, and sprinkler systems that can be controlled from anywhere.
Cold Weather Safety: Winterize Your Home
Snow may be beautiful, but the winter months can be a hazard for your loved ones and your home if you’re not careful. Icy driveways, ice dams, and frozen pipes are just a few problems that can arise. Before the deep chill of winter sets in, be sure to winterize your home.
- Swap out screens for storm windows, and be sure to seal gaps around doors and windows with weather stripping.
- Clean up debris around the landscape of your home as well as the roof.
- Check all exterior vents and be sure they’re closed.
- Prevent ice dams from forming on your roof by minimizing the amount of snowmelt; clean your gutters and keep your attic cool and ventilated. Icicles can be a sign that an ice dam is forming.
- Carefully remove icicles that are within reach; if they’re too high up or don’t easily knock off, hire a professional to remove them to avoid potential injuries.
- Keep your driveway and sidewalk clear by shoveling off snow, or using a snowblower, and applying a deicer.
- Drain all remaining water from outdoor faucets or sprinkler systems to protect your pipes from freezing.
Your habits on the road matter in the winter, too. Prepare your car by ensuring you have snow brushes and ice scrapers, and consider putting salt or kitty litter in the trunk in case you encounter icy driveways or roads. Make sure to stock your vehicle with all the staples, such as first aid kits, road flares, and a jack. If you’re concerned about breaking down in the cold, store a few extra blankets and coats as well. For those in areas prone to very heavy snowfall, such as Minneapolis, don’t forget about snow tires and chains.