(BPT) - The holiday season brings a sense of excitement and togetherness, but preparing for lively gatherings or traveling can present distinctive safety challenges.
"Anyone preparing for guests should be mindful of how they organize their celebrations and understand the coverage provided by their insurance policies," said Bonnie Lee, Vice President of Property Claims for Mercury Insurance. "Homeowners need to identify and address any areas needing extra attention for a safe and inviting environment."
To guarantee an enjoyable and festive get-together for you and your guests, take time to review some of the more commonly overlooked items in the home.
Keep holiday lights bright and safe
The magic of the holidays often finds its sparkle in glimmering lights. Preserve their charm without risking safety and property. While most lights, ornaments and other decorations are insured for damage from fire, vandalism or theft, they aren’t insured against the wear and tear of normal use.
Before stringing any lights, check lighting cords to make sure there aren’t any tears or deformations. Looking for signs of excess wear on all indoor and outdoor lights, including fading, frayed wiring, or twisted and kinked cords. Replace any damaged bulbs and test each strand of lights by plugging them in before decorating to confirm they are operational and safe. Make sure any cords or lights you are using for outdoor displays are made for outdoor use and never overload extension cords or outlets.
Install and update security systems for peace of mind
Holiday excitement can interfere with awareness of potential risks. Break-ins and thefts increase this time of year since thieves know many families might be distracted with the busyness of the season, or traveling and leaving their homes unattended. Homeowners can significantly reduce their risk by installing surveillance cameras, video doorbells, alarms, deadbolts and other types of home security. Some insurers may offer policies with a theft protective device discount.
“It’s also important to note that if you recently received or purchased an expensive gift, make sure that your insurance policy extends to cover such presents,” said Lee. “Homeowners policies often cover theft, so you’ll be able to file a claim with your insurance company should something happen, but it’s always a good idea to check your insurance policy to see how your personal property is covered, including high-end gifts.”
Share with care
One of the enticing factors thieves consider when scouting for homes to target is whether a home is currently unoccupied. By sharing holiday plans and locations in real time on social media, homeowners unwittingly publicize that their house is vacant. Even with privacy settings on, sharing extensively online still poses a risk due to extended friend networks and other potential breaches.
Consider waiting to share pictures, status updates and check-ins until you return home,” said Lee. “By postponing these posts, homeowners reduce the risk of attracting unwanted attention to their empty property.”
Increased cooking times, a higher number of dishes being prepared and a flurry of guests can lead to forgotten stovetops and ovens, or grease fires due to spillover from pots and pans.
“Fire insurance is typically included in your policy and protects the contents and the surrounding property, helping with the cost of replacing or repairing your home in case of such an event,” said Lee. “However, it’s best to stay attentive. Avoid leaving cooking areas unattended when the stove or oven is in use and make sure cooking areas are free of combustible materials like wooden utensils or dish towels. It’s also a good idea to keep a working fire extinguisher that is easily accessible in your kitchen.”
As the holiday season progresses, remember to review your homeowners insurance policy to understand exactly what coverage it offers and that it has been updated to suit your family’s needs, particularly if you've made any high-value renovations or purchases.
“The holiday times are for joy and celebrations, not for dealing with unanticipated losses or accidents. Following a few simple precautions will be the best gift you can give yourself for a peaceful and festive season," said Lee.