Hollywood has given us many holiday comedies about light-stringing homeowners who tumble down ladders, and guests tripping over reindeer decorations that fell off the roof. Of course, these scenes are choreographed and performed by skillful stuntmen and women. In reality, we cannot predict such mishaps, especially during the holidays when we have more people in our homes than normal.
If you’ve recently moved into your new home, there are safety concerns that need attention before people come to your home for the holidays. To make it a true celebration and keep guests safe, be proactive; make a safety list and check it twice – or perhaps three times.
We’ve also included the NewHomeSource holiday playlist at the end of the article, so you can enjoy all the fun holiday vibes!
Hang Your Outdoor Lights With Care
First things first, keep yourself safe! You don’t want to host the holiday festivities on crutches. In case of a misstep on a ladder or rooftop, gravity wins. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that ladder falls are responsible for thousands of holiday decorating injuries annually. At last count in 2016, there were nearly 15,000 accidents. If you are so inclined to leave the safety of solid ground and climb a ladder to hang exterior lights (another safety tip: Make sure they are not indoor lights), pay attention to the surface. Is the ground level? Once you start climbing, consider the top three rungs off limits. Another safety tip is to enlist a helper, preferably an adult, to steady the ladder.
O Christmas Tree, How Green Are Thy Branches?
If your heart is set on a live tree, one key word should guide you in your selection: Green. Are the needles vibrant green and hard to pull, indicating the tree is freshly cut? Or do they fall away when you brush your hand against them? Christmas trees are thirsty, and some can guzzle up to a gallon of water a day. Prior to fastening the tree in its stand, cut off at least two inches of the trunk to give it unhindered access to water. A dry Christmas tree, as we all know, is a fire hazard waiting to happen.
Finding the Right Spot
Once the tree is anchored in its stand, remember to stage it at least three feet away from any heat source. This includes fireplaces, candles, radiators and lamps. It should not be in a space that can create a trip hazard or block a doorway or exit. If you are foregoing a real tree for an artificial one, be sure the label is clearly marked “Fire Resistant”.
Indoor and Outdoor Lights
Since this is a new home, you may want to use only new, low energy LED lights, which is great! If you do decide to use ones from prior years, though, inspect each string. Discard strings that are frayed or have broken or missing bulbs.
Also, keep a supply of surge protectors on hand, as this will help you resist the urge to insert multiple plugs or extension cords. A word of caution: Use indoor lights inside and outdoor lights outside. For exterior illumination, only use extension cords that are designated for outdoor use and plug them into a GFCI outlet. And when it’s time for bed, make sure all lights – inside and out, as well as candles – are out for the night, too.
Paving the Way for Arrival
Depending on where you live, you may need to shovel snow and remove ice before guests arrive. Some homeowners may still have a few inches of lingering leaves to rake. Inspect the path that a potential guest will take from their vehicle to your entry door. If your builder didn’t include motion sensor lights, this may be the perfect time to install them. Also, double check exterior light bulbs on your porch and patio to confirm they are in working order and adequately light up the driveway and sidewalk.
Welcoming and mingling with guests is part of being a great host. Be careful, as distractions may draw you away from the stove. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a moment, do so only if someone has an eye on the stove. If you don’t yet have at least one UL-approved fire extinguisher, add it to your shopping list as a mandatory item. Candles can add ambiance to a room, but they are another fire hazard. Consider replacing them with battery-operated LED flameless ones. If you have a glowing fireplace, protect your guests from flying embers with a screen. If you do not have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, consider installing them before the day of your party. Advise your insurance company, as your homeowner policy may offer a discount.
Childproof your Home
Children can move faster than the speed of light. So before your doorbells rings, lock up all firearms, matches, medications, and household chemicals. Their little hands also may reach for a sweet delight on the table and cause a dish to fall on top of them, so take caution when setting your festive holiday table.
Cleared for Departure?
Take heed if you serve alcoholic beverages at your holiday party – or any party. If someone appears to be intoxicated, have a designated driver take them home, call a rideshare service, or make sure you have a place for them to stay and sober up. The grim statistics provided by the National Safety Council predict that in 2019, there will be approximately 422 traffic fatalities during the Christmas holiday, and 438 on New Year’s Day. In prior years, one-third involved alcohol-impaired drivers.
Holiday Mishaps and Homeowners Insurance
While your home insurance policy probably has you covered, it may be a good idea to consult your agent. If someone sustains an injury, or you incur property damage, you will want to have a sufficient amount of liability insurance. It will also be a good time to inquire about dwelling and personal property insurance in case a tree or stove sparks a fire. If there is a fire in your home, promptly get everyone outside and dial 911.
Chances are your new home will be filled with laughter, comfort and joy. Taking a few precautions before the festivities begin should minimize risks and help you relax while entertaining and celebrating with your loved ones.