How to Keep Your Home Safe This Holiday Season
Picture this holiday season and what do you see – it’s likely time spent with family and friends, celebrating “the most wonderful time of the year!” Perhaps you’re gathered around the Christmas tree, enjoying a grand meal on Thanksgiving, playing dreidel with your children at Hanukkah, or mulling over how to save the most on holiday shopping.
Whatever it is, you probably aren’t thinking about double checking that the car is locked, the front door is secure, the tree is unplugged, and the menorah isn’t somewhere your pet will knock over. The happy thoughts of the holidays often outweigh the negative ones – which isn’t a bad thing – but to fully enjoy the holidays, it’s good to be proactive with risk prevention so you can focus your time on loved ones.
Practicing safety procedures at home like installing surge protectors, testing security systems, and eating healthy can protect your entire family. Here are some items to add to your holiday season safety checklist this year.
Protect Your Car
During Christmas and New Year’s, there’s about a 25% increase in drivers who travel further than 50 miles. This increase, coupled with more hazardous road conditions, can mean your car needs some work to keep everyone inside safe. Here are a few ways to ensure the safety of your car this holiday season (along with yours).
Car Safety Tips
- Routine maintenance. Car maintenance and check-ups are the best way to ensure your car is ready for its normal commute or extended travel. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic to discuss how to winterize your car. Check the brakes, tires, heater, lights, battery, and windshield wipers so you won’t have to worry about stopping on a snowy road, seeing throw stormy weather, or staying warm on the road.
- Keep it locked. Double-check to make sure the doors are locked anytime you step away, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- Carry your valuables. Leaving valuables in your car in plain sight could make your car more susceptible to a break in. Take valuables with you or put them in the trunk stashed under a blanket.
Prevent Home Burglaries
One of the largest threats during this season is that of home invasions. Remember the movie Home Alone? Unless you have your own Kevin, you don’t want any burglars getting inside your home.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, you’re leaving your home more susceptible to a break in. During the holiday season, more homes are left vacant than other times of the year, and burglars are fully aware of this trend. Criminals may scout an area to see who is preparing to leave, and might even see you get in the car with suitcases signifying you’ll be away.
This doesn’t mean you should cancel your travel plans, but rather take some extra precautions. A US Department of Justice report also indicates that 30% of home invasions occur when someone is home.
Tips for Thwarting Burglaries
You’re probably asking what you can do to prevent robbers from targeting your home, and that’s a great question! Here are some tips that will deter unwanted visitors.
- Separate your home from “common spaces” like sidewalks and parks by installing a fence or using plants to provide an element of separation. This also provides another obstacle between a burglar and your property.
- Install exterior motion-sensor lights that will illuminate the area if someone crosses their path.
- Set up timers for your interior lights to give the appearance of being home. Try to time than randomly from each other to create the illusion someone is moving from room to room.
- Purchase a security system for your home to alert you and the police if someone enters without your permission.
- Stick a sign for a security system in your yard even if you don’t have one. The idea that your home may be equipped with one will be enough to cause burglars to target a different home.
Did you know nearly 1 out of 3 of house fires happens during the holiday season? There is a significant increase in the risk factors that can lead to a home fire. Whether you’ve got the least amount of Christmas lights in the neighborhood or have never forgotten to blow out the menorah, you aren’t completely risk-free.
As temperatures are dropping, homeowners opt to use fireplaces and furnaces more than other times of the year. Some occupants love a holiday smell in their home, so they burn scented candles throughout the house to create a warm atmosphere. You might be cooking more often if you’re hosting guests or contributing to holiday potlucks, so your kitchen might become a higher risk if it’s not properly cleaned.
Fire Prevention Tips
Most home fires are completely preventable. Here are some tips to help keep your home safe.
- Install timers on any exterior and interior holiday lights. This will ensure they don’t stay on all night if you forget to turn them off, and you’ll save some money if they aren’t using a constant stream of electricity all day.
- Double check that your oven is off and unplug unused appliances before bed. This will keep them from overheating and starting a fire.
- Hire a chimney sweep to clean your chimney properly. A build-up of creosote and any other materials that may have fallen inside can create a big hazard when you’re sitting by the fire.
- Only burn candles in rooms you’re currently occupying. If you’re eating in the dining room and moving to the living room to chit chat, blow out the candle before leaving the room.
- Don’t overload your outlets. Surge protectors with their own fuse are great to protect your fuse box from blowing, but you shouldn’t be plugging them into each other. That’s called daisy chaining and it’s very dangerous.
Protect Your Body
A lot of people work to make healthier choices in the summer, but once winter comes around, they’re ready to indulge in the delights that come with the holiday season. To best protect your body, it’s just as important to watch what you’re eating during the holiday season as it is to watch how much you’re drinking.
Binge eating is a very real danger according to AmericanAdditionCenters.org. This infographic shows what a normal portion is compared to what an over indulging portion looks like to help keep your gut in check.
Sure, it’s fine to grab a drink or two to celebrate, but there’s never an excuse for drunk driving, especially during the holiday season when road conditions are already more dangerous. Have a designated driver to take guests home or have a taxi number on your fridge that’s ready when someone wants to leave. Uber and Lyft are other good alternatives to get home safely.
Protect Your Loved Ones
Do you get a special smile on your face when you see your child opening presents? How about when your pet completely destroys their new toy out of pure joy? There are steps to ensure the safety of your children and pets that are often overlooked.
Child Safety Tips
Whether you have children of your own or not, it’s important to make your home child-friendly when you’re hosting a holiday gathering. If you aren’t used to having children around, prepping for young visitors may not be top-of-mind, so here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Keep small decorations out of reach of children, so they don’t become a choking hazard.
- Candles should be kept out of reach as well to avoid them from being accidentally knocked over.
- Ask parents to bring a child-gate if you have stairs or rooms that should remain child-free zones.
Pet Safety Tips
Some of the same tips that apply for child safety are appropriate for pet safety.
- Keep small ornaments and decorations out of reach, so they don’t end up broken on the floor or eaten.
- Don’t give animals any human food or beverages. Garfield and Spot can’t tell you it won’t sit well with them.
- Don't leave animals in the car, as running in for a "quick errand" can take much longer than expected (especially given the long lines around the holidays) and the temperatures are too extreme for furry friends.
Also, when it comes to large groups and fireworks, consider making a safe space for animals to hang out. The ASPCA offers many other helpful tips specifically for animal safety during the holidays.
By incorporating all of these ideas, you’re destined to have a merry and safe holiday season. It’s best to be proactive when it comes to safety so you can enjoy yourself more.