For most, the holidays are a time to enjoy the company of family and friends in their decorated homes and for others, a trip to visit friends and family or a much needed vacation. The holidays are also a time of increased risk of fire, burglary, identity theft, and bodily injury simply because the way we celebrate. Some sobering info…
Fire –Each year many preventable fires that claim lives and cause considerable property damage occur during the holiday season. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
- Cooking is the leading cause of winter residential building fires at 36% followed by heating at 23%.
- Heating – space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires and approximately 80% of the home heating fire deaths.
- Christmas Trees – In each of the past 5 years, fire departments in the United States responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of 4 deaths, 21 injuries, and $17.3 million in direct property damage annually. Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, one of every 66 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. A heat source too close to the Christmas tree started one of every five (18%) of these fires.
- Nineteen percent of home Christmas tree structure fires were intentionally set. Nearly three-fourths (72%) of the intentionally set Christmas tree fires occurred in the 15 days after Christmas and may have been related to disposal.
Burglary – Burglary risk rises during the holiday season. According to FBI statistics in 2012, there were an estimated 2,103,787 burglaries. Of these, 20% occurred during November and December
Fraud and Identity Theft – According to the Federal Trade Commission in 2011, a disproportionate number of scams, fraud, and identity theft-related incidents occur during the holiday rush. Most known cases of fraud are committed when the criminal has direct, physical access to the victim’s information. 43% of identity theft cases are the result of a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook, credit card, or physical document
Alcohol – According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures there were 10,322 fatalities in 2012 caused by driving under the influence. Of this, two days alone, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, accounted for approximately 3.5% of the total.
How can you reduce the risk of these holiday-related risks?
Fire – Cooking
The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
Keep anything that can catch fire – potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains – away from your stovetop.
Keep young children at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from any place where hot food or drink is being prepared or carried. Keep hot foods and liquids away from table and counter edges
Fire – Candles
- Like cooking, never leave burning candles unattended.
- If you must use candles, ensure that they are placed in sturdy holders.
- Keep candles away from children and pets.
- Be sure to extinguish candles after each use.
Fire – Heating
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
- Do not burn green wood, paper, or trash in your fireplace because they create heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control.
- Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
Fire – Christmas Decorations
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched and cut 2” from the base of the trunk before placing the tree in the stand. Get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles, heat vents or lights. Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
- Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. With Christmas tree lights it is generally unsafe to link more than three strings together unless manufacturer’s directions indicate otherwise. As is the case all year round, be sure not to overload electrical outlets.
- Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove
- Lock your doors and windows and leave the lights on or use a timer.
- Install a security system
- Make it look like you are home. Install automatic light sensors. Don’t leave occupancy clues like outdoor lights burning 24 hours a day, piled up newspapers, or advertising flyers hanging on the door knob. Have someone check your home daily.
- Don’t advertise you will be or are away by announce your travel plans on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t leave descriptive telephone answering machine messages like, “You’ve reached the Smith’s…we’re away skiing for the Christmas holidays…please leave a message.” Be discreet.
- Don’t leave empty boxes from new purchase outside announcing the new stereo, computer or other items.
Shopping online safety checklist
- Credit cards offer greater protection than debit cards when shopping online.
- Secure cell phones and back them up regularly. Enable data encryption and antivirus apps. Use password and inactivity time locks.
- Don’t reveal private financial data over shared wireless access points such as coffee shops.
- Never give credit card information over the phone unless you initiated the call or trust the company.
- Never link a bank account to an online pay service.
- Protect your computer with the latest browser, antivirus, anti-malware, and personal firewall protection and update regularly.
- Shop on secure sites that display “https” or a padlock in your browser address bar.
- Be aware of “phishing” e-mail scams that include website links advertising incredible deals.
- Leave suspicious websites immediately. Don’t click on any buttons or download software.
Bodily Injury and Liability
- Don’t drink and drive. Don’t allow your friends to drink and drive.
- Keep walkways and stairs clear of ice and snow.
We hope that these tips help to keep you and your family, friends, and homes safe and happy, during the holiday season.