Staying Safe & Being Prepared for the Holidays
The holidays are a wonderful time, filled with food, family, friends and fun. But seasonal celebration can also bring an increase in risks that can result in inconvenience, injury and insurance claims. Here are some common holiday headaches and how to avoid them.
Purloined Packages. Ordering your gifts online this year? Thieves have been known to steal packages right off your doorstep. Be sure to track your packages online so you know when they’re scheduled to arrive. If you or a family member can’t be home to receive them, consider having them delivered to your workplace or a trusted neighbor. If you think a package has been stolen, ask your insurance agent whether the theft is covered under your homeowners policy. If you are packing gifts yourself and sending them to friends or family, consider buying insurance from your shipping carrier.
Identity Theft. The holiday season brings with it an increase in shopping and travel, plus busy schedules and extra distraction, all of which creates an ideal environment for identity theft. To be sure no one uses your nice name to do something naughty:
- Be extra careful when shopping online (look for the lock icon next to the URL to be sure your information is secure).
- Don’t open any attachments or click any links in unsolicited emails you receive.
- Don’t give out any personal or financial information over the phone unless you make the call to a verified number such as the one on your credit card or mailed account statement.
- Review your account statements to be sure there are no unfamiliar or fraudulent charges. Some thieves make very small charges of only a couple dollars, hoping they will be overlooked.
- Don’t shop online over public Wi-Fi networks such as at a coffee shop or library. Those networks are not secure, so any personal information you send can be intercepted by others using the network.
Houseguest Mishaps. Having family or friends over to celebrate this holiday season? Be prepared by checking to see what your homeowners policy includes for liability coverage, and be sure you remove any possible sources of injury:
- Clear any snow or ice from walkways.
- Make sure all rugs and carpets are secure.
- Check sidewalks, steps, porches, patios and decks for any cracks or loose bricks, stones or tiles.
- Make sure stair railings are sturdy and secure.
- Check wiring and cords to make sure there are no worn or frayed spots.
Fire Hazard. Nothing says “holidays” like a roaring fire. To make sure that fire stays friendly, be careful when disposing of ashes. Hot coals buried in ashes can stay hot enough to start a fire for days or even weeks, so never vacuum ashes or put them directly into trash bags or the garbage. Remove them with a shovel and store them in a metal container on a non-combustible surface, away from anything flammable. If you put the container outside, make sure it’s out of the wind and not in a place it can be knocked over by animals or children. Other fire safeguards to take:
- Inspect your chimney for blockages and have it cleaned if necessary.
- Keep the fire screen closed to prevent sparks from jumping onto carpeting, furniture or curtains.
- Have fire extinguishers in easy-to-reach locations and know how to use them.
Leaving Home. Traveling for the holidays? Don’t share your plans on social media. When you post details about when you’ll be away from home, you’re putting out the welcome mat for potential crooks looking to break in while you’re away. To keep your house from looking abandoned, consider leaving on some lights (or putting them on a timer), and stopping your newspaper and mail or having a neighbor bring them in for you. Before you leave, make sure you have an up to date inventory of the contents of your home, just in case.