Tips For Avoiding 5 Common Holiday Disasters
Connie is a licensed broker for all lines of insurance and has been in the industry for 38 years, 20 of them with C&S! She has been married for 40 years and has two adult daughters.
Tips for avoiding 5 common holiday disasters
The winter holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year, but unfortunately, they can also be the most dangerous. From avoiding package theft to preventing food poisoning, here are tips to avoid some of the most common holiday injuries, accidents, and disasters.
Thanksgiving is the peak day for cooking-related fires, according to a 2020 report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These fires typically are the result of unattended cooking, and they most often start on the stovetop—but deep frying your turkey also increases the risk. Deep fryers cause five deaths, 60 injuries, and damage to 900 homes every year, causing over $15 million in total property damage, according to the NFPA.
To avoid cooking fires, make sure your stoves, ovens, and fryers are always being watched. Keep small children in a different room, and make sure the kitchen isn’t overcrowded. If you use a deep fryer, take it outdoors, not inside the house. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Remember to turn off all your cooking appliances before you sit down for your meal.
In the event of a fire, always call 911. Statistics from the NFPA show that 55% of non-fatal injuries as a result of cooking fires occurred in cases when victims didn’t call the fire department for help.
If a fire begins on your stovetop, turn off the burner and cover the pot or pan with a lid, if possible. Don’t use water or flour, which could cause flare-ups, but instead throw baking soda on the flames. If a fire begins in the oven, turn it off and keep the door closed. Evacuate your guests and wait for the fire department to arrive.
Online shopping might be the main way you purchase gifts this year. However, the recent rise in online shopping has come with an increase in the number of packages stolen—a 2022 study from Security.org found that 49 million Americans had a package stolen in the past year.
The easiest way to avoid package theft is to make sure someone is home to receive the package—or talk to your neighbors about bringing in each other’s packages. Of course, this isn’t always possible, so another solution is to install a doorbell camera or other home security system. If you do install a camera, make sure its presence is obvious to potential thieves.
Additionally, if you’re still worried, you could have your packages delivered to an office, P.O. box, or locker. You could also ask the shipper to have the delivery driver obtain a signature upon delivery or to leave the package at a back door rather than a more visible location.
If you witness package theft, don’t confront the thief, so the situation doesn’t become dangerous. Instead, report the individual to your neighbors and to the police.
Guest Injuries Or Food Poisoning
Maybe a friendly family football game results in a sprained ankle, or maybe the turkey turns out a little raw. If a guest becomes injured or ill on your property, the liability or medical payments portion of your homeowner’s insurance will cover the medical bills (and potential legal fees).
To avoid food poisoning, the CDC recommends that you safely thaw your Thanksgiving turkey in the refrigerator or in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes—never thaw it by leaving it out on the counter. Then, safely cook it at a temperature of at least 325°F, and make sure the turkey’s internal temperature reaches 165°F using a meat thermometer. A stuffed turkey will take longer to reach this temperature.
Also, be sure to wash and disinfect all utensils and cutting boards that may have come into contact with raw meat. Keep raw foods separate from each other to avoid cross-contamination. Don’t reuse meat marinades as sauces unless you thoroughly boil them first.
Before your guests arrive, ask them about their food allergies. Some allergies only affect individuals when they consume the food directly, but others, such as tree nuts, can be airborne. You may need to keep children with certain allergies away from the kitchen.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are some of the deadliest days of the year in terms of car accidents, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. An average of 405 fatal crashes occur on Thanksgiving day, compared to the daily November average of 109.
If you serve alcohol to your guests, you may find yourself liable for any damage their driving may cause, as most states have social host liability laws. Over-serving alcohol to someone in your home who is visibly intoxicated means you can be held responsible if they cause an accident. Homeowners insurance policies can cover injuries and property damage sustained by non-negligent third parties.
Be mindful of your guests’ alcohol intake, and make sure you are responsible with your own so you can keep an eye on others. For guests who become intoxicated, offer them a ride home if you are sober, help them safely access public transportation or a rideshare service, or find them a ride with one of your other guests. Alternatively, allow them to spend the night at your home. If you and your guests plan to drink, make a plan ahead of time to determine designated drivers or accommodate overnight stays.
Make sure your pets will stay safe this holiday season, too. Some dogs or other pets may become anxious or frightened around a large number of guests, and serious bites require medical care and can lead to lawsuits. Set aside a space like a quiet bedroom for your pets, and make sure they have enough food and water before your guests arrive.
Be aware of pets in the kitchen—they could present a tripping or fire hazard, and fumes from some cooking equipment are toxic to them. Teflon, for example, can kill birds, and should not be used at all if you have birds in your home. It’s best practice to keep pets in another room.
Ask your guests to avoid feeding your pets food that may be unhealthy for them. For example, dogs should never consume chocolate. Guests meeting your dog for the first time may be unaware of this, so you should let them know what your pet can and cannot eat before the meal is served.