‘Tis the season to be merry. In the interest of keeping folks safe while celebrating, Safety Insurance has compiled its top recommendations to help you have a safe holiday season and Happy New Year.
Holiday Travel. The first step to ensuring a smooth car trip is to keep your vehicle in good working condition. Before heading out for a lengthy trip, have a qualified mechanic check all the car's vitals: brakes, battery, fluid levels, tire pressure, light bulbs and any parts that need regular maintenance.
TravelSense.com recommends bringing emergency equipment with you during holiday travel. A first-aid kit, flashlight, blankets, food, water, flares and jumper cables are a few to keep in mind. An ice scraper and chains for the tires will also come in handy. While a white Christmas is great for the memories, it can make your travel less than merry.
Finally, although you are in the spirit of giving, there are Scrooges out there too. To reduce your chances of a break-in, make sure to pack your gifts and valuables in the trunk. Afraid of squashed bows? Wait until you are at your destination to add decorative ribbons.
Avoid Collisions with Other “Travelers”. October to December is breeding season for the white-tailed deer population. According to Car & Driver, there are approximately 500,000 deer strike collisions resulting in over one hundred deaths and thousands of injuries each year. Try these tips to avoid hitting a deer:
- Be especially alert in deer crossing zones and during early morning and evening hours, the most active time for deer.
- If you see a deer, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
- Brake firmly if you spot a deer in or near your path. Do not swerve. It can confuse the deer as to where to run and can also cause you to lose control and hit a tree, another car, or a pedestrian.
- Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in car/deer crashes were not wearing one.
- Look for other deer after one has crossed the road; deer seldom run alone.
If your vehicle strikes a deer, get your car off the road if you are able to and call the police. Contact your insurance agent or company representative and report the incident when you reach your destination. Collision with an animal is normally covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.
Entertaining. The U.S. Fire Administration says that there are more than double the number of open-flame fires on Christmas Day, and two times that on New Year’s Day, than there are on any other day. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association. If entertaining at home, remember to keep an eye on the stove.
The holidays are also a nice time to use the fireplace. Be sure the flue is open, and keep the area clear of any greens, boughs, papers, and decorations. Gift wrap paper should not be burned in the fireplace. A flash fire may result because wrappings burn quickly and intensely.
Tree Safety. Choosing a tree can be a yearly tradition for some families. A few things to keep in mind when picking yours out: a fresh tree is green, needles should be hard to pull from branches, and when bent between your fingers, needles should not break.
Live trees need to be watered every day to keep them looking their best, and to keep you safe. Dry needles and branches are more likely to catch fire. According to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, an average tree can consume between one quart and one gallon of water per day. If the water level drops below the cut end of the trunk, a seal will form and no water will be absorbed unless another fresh cut is made. So don't forget to add water every day. When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant".
Holiday Lights. Check your tree lights - even if you've just purchased them - before hanging them on your tree. All the bulbs should work and there should be no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections. When putting up lights outside, use lights and extension cords made for the outdoors, be sure they are plugged into a GFCI outlet, and avoid overloading cords as they can get hot enough to burn.
Your lights may be beautiful, but be sure to turn them off when you go to bed or leave the house to avoid fires. For more tips on outdoor light safety, check out About.com’s Christmas Light Safety guide.
Protect Your Valuables. According to the FBI nearly 400,000 burglaries occur in the U.S. from November through December each year. To protect your valuables and your family:
- Do not advertise expensive gifts to burglars by leaving empty gift boxes from your new electronics purchases on the curb. Instead, break down the boxes and place them in large garbage bags to conceal the items Santa delivered. Better yet, take boxes directly to a recycling center after gifts have been opened.
- Remember to arm your home burglar alarm system.
- Illuminate the exterior of your home on all sides to eliminate any hiding places for potential intruders. One of the most effective ways to do this is to install motion-detector spotlights, which have built-in sensors that automatically turn the lights on when movement is detected.
- Create the illusion of activity inside your home by installing timer switches on lights in main living areas.
Protect Your Home. Protecting the outside of your home is not just a holiday precaution. With all the festivities between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, many people forget to take time to protect themselves against cold weather damage. If you live in a cold, snowy area, you may already know about the damaging effects of ice dams. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home causing damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation. The University of Minnesota Extension program recommends the following:
- Remove snow from the roof. This eliminates one of the ingredients necessary for the formation of an ice dam. A "roof rake" and push broom can be used to remove snow; however, be aware that these methods may damage roofing materials.
- In an emergency situation where water is flowing into the house, make channels through the ice dam that allow the water behind the dam to drain off the roof. Try hosing with tap water on a warm day and work upward from the lower edge of the dam. Keep in mind the channel will become blocked again within days, and is only a temporary solution to your ice dam problem.
- For a more permanent solution, first make sure your ceiling is air-tight so no warm, moist air can flow from the house into the attic space. After sealing air leakage paths between the house and attic, increase the ceiling/roof insulation to cut down on heat loss.
By taking these simple precautions, you can ensure you and yours have a safe and healthy holiday season.