By Reid Rushing, CPIA, AAI | President, Insurance Division
‘Tis the season for holiday cheers and family gatherings. Here at Beck Partners, we want your holiday season to be happy and cheerful and we want you to avoid any possible losses that can happen during this time of the year.
With the increase in traffic in your home and the desire to do a hundred things at a time, we sometimes forget to watch out for the simple things that can make your Christmas holiday a disaster.
Here are five safety tips to protect your home and your family during this season.
1. Pick a fresh tree and water it daily
If you are going to pick a real Christmas tree this year, make sure you pick a fresh one from a reputable company. Christmas trees cause an average of 210 fires and $17.5 million in property damage a year. To avoid this, choose the freshest tree possible or cut your own tree from a local tree farm. The National Christmas Tree Association recommends running a branch through your fingers to check for signs of dryness. Do not buy a tree if its needles come off easily, its branches break, it has discolored foliage, it smells musty or its bark is wrinkled.
Having a fresh tree can really make your home smell like Christmas. Remember, you have to keep it watered regularly. Check its water level frequently to make sure it doesn’t go below the base of the tree—otherwise, it may begin to dry out. If your tree dries out, it may cause the natural sap from the tree to seal off the bottom of the tree, preventing any new watering from being effective.
Also be considerate regarding the placement of the tree and avoid sources of heat, like fireplaces, heating vents or sunlight from a window. These factors can cause a tree to dry out more quickly.
2. Select decorations carefully
Once you’ve picked your tree, you now get to decorate it! Electrical issues are behind a third of Christmas tree fires, and the majority of those fires involve decorative lights. Consumer Reports cautions to only use lights tested in a nationally-recognized laboratory, like Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Old lights, especially if they are uncertified or damaged, generally draw more power and are a major risk.
The best lights for Christmas trees are certified miniature lights that emit low heat. But no matter what lights you use, always inspect them for loose connections, broken or cracked sockets and frayed or bare wires. And never leave a lit Christmas tree unmonitored—turn off the tree lights when you leave the house or go to bed.
3. Prevent outdoor light fires
Now that you have the right lights on your tree, it’s time to put the lights on or around the house. Remember “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?” This is where Clark Griswold set up all of his house light strands into one outlet. Of course this was a movie, and we all knew that was a bad idea, but how many of us have strung many lights together to one plug? This can cause a major fire hazard. Overloading a single electrical outlet with too many lights will overdraw the power and cause overheating. This can trip the circuit breaker and start an electrical fire.
Prevent this from happening by never attaching more than three strands of lights together. Consider using LED lights, because they use less energy and don’t get as hot as traditional incandescent lights. And, if you’re hanging up lights outdoors, make sure to use ones that are certified for outdoor use.
4. Be mindful of freezing pipes
It does not get too cold for too long down here in the South, so we sometimes forget about the pipes in our homes until one busts open. A few times a year the night temperature gets cold enough to freeze the water in pipes which can cause them to burst. A busted pipe can easily cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. Who wants to not have water during this time of the year? To avoid an expensive cleanup, take preventative action. Outdoor pipes like sprinkler lines, hose bibs and swimming pool supply lines are the most likely to freeze. Before cold weather hits, drain the water from your sprinkler lines and swimming pool, remove outdoor hoses and close the inside valve to outdoor hose bibs.
Unheated interior areas like basements, garages, kitchen cabinets, crawl spaces and attics are also at risk. Pipes in these areas need to be insulated with pipe sleeves, heat tape or heat cables that are certified to cover exposed pipes. The American Red Cross advises that even one-quarter inch of newspaper can provide insulation.
5. Watch those kitchen fires
You may one of those people who cooks more during this season than any other time. You may not be used to the possible disasters in the kitchen, but cooking mishaps cause nearly 72 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires, leading to $28 million in property loss.
The American Red Cross recommends cooks should never leave food unattended and avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing and long sleeves. Also, enforce a “kid-free zone,” use a timer, install a smoke alarm and keep cooking areas free of items that can catch fire, like oven mitts and towels.
Beck Partners hopes that each of you have a wonderful Christmas Season. We want you to be safe and enjoy your friends and family.
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!
Filed under: Insights