With Halloween right around the corner, as a homeowner, there’s more to think about than outdoor decorations, candy and scary costumes. All Hallows Eve also signifies a time when you should start thinking about outdoor safety — specifically, how safe your yard is for all of the trick-or-treaters who may be dropping by your home.
If it’s your first year in the home, talk with any neighbors who were there the previous year to learn what kind of traffic you should expect. If you’re not sure how much candy to buy, you can always purchase extra and return unopened bags after the holiday is over (or if you’re like us at NewHomeSource.com, you can eat the candy yourself). Aside from stocking your pantry full of sweets, it’s imperative you perform several maintenance and safety precautions to ensure your home doesn’t present any hazards to kids.
Even though you may know where you need to hop over the garden hose or avoid the prickly rose bush next to your front walk, the kids coming to your home probably don’t. Spend some extra time clearing obstacles from your yard that could pose tripping hazards. All paths should be clear, including the path from your driveway to the main path if you have one. Think beyond the paths, too, because some kids may cut corners and walk through the grass to get to more houses during the evening. Your whole yard should be free of debris that could trip kids up.
Light the Path
A well-lit path also helps keep little ones’ footing steady, especially if you have steps they need to navigate. Consider installing permanent lighting along your path or even just purchasing a few solar lights in the week before Halloween. These charge during the day and automatically turn on at dusk, but you’ll need a few bright days to ensure they’re charged before Halloween arrives. Another idea, if you would rather use temporary lighting, is to create homemade luminaries by placing battery-operated tea lights in jars or paper bags. These can also be part of your outdoor Halloween decorations.
Light the Porch
An illuminated porch signals you welcome trick-or-treaters and lets parents keep an eye on their kids from the street if they prefer to not walk up. Porch lighting also keeps kids safe as they come onto your porch, especially if they have to climb up steps or maneuver through pots, furniture or decorations. Turn on at least one porch light, and consider setting up an additional light outside on Halloween to make your porch brighter. Run an outdoor extension cord to your porch, and plug in a sturdy lamp, or just turn on lights inside and open your window coverings for windows that face the porch.
Keep Jack-o’-Lanterns Out of Harm’s Way
Carved jack-o’-lanterns make some of the most classic porch decorations for Halloween, but they can also be dangerous. The lit candle inside can catch a stray piece of a child’s costume on fire, or curious kids or pets may try to touch the flame. Therefore, keep jack-o’-lanterns away from where kids will be standing and, ideally, up and out of reach. Another way to make them safe is to light them with a flashlight or battery-operated candle instead of a real flame.
Avoid Fire Hazards
Keep an eye out for other types of fire hazards you may accidentally create. For example, bales of hay used to decorate porches can be very flammable, as can scarecrow decorations stuffed with real hay or straw. Other flammable decorations include dried corn husks, crepe paper and paper bags. Keep these away from flames and hot lights for safety. If you’re using strings of lights to decorate your yard, limit the number you plug in end-to-end, so you don’t overload circuits and start an electrical fire. Also pay attention to the maximum load of any extension cords you use.
With some attention to detail, you can set your home up to safely welcome trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Keep an eye on everything throughout the evening to ensure everything remains safe all night. You may even be able to use the evening as a chance to get to know some of your neighbors who you haven’t had a chance to meet yet.
Kristen May is a freelance writer and recent homeowner who enjoys conserving energy in her 74-year-old classic row home in Baltimore.