As we start to deck the halls and hit the malls for the holiday season, there are some safety measures consumers should be aware of. This is the time of year when people can easily become overwhelmed and in turn overlook potential holiday hazards. I connected with Jennifer Wilbert, AVP for property, personal insurance at Travelers to learn the best ways to protect yourself on everything from potentially hazardous holiday displays to porch pirates.
Here are some of Wilbert’s top tips to keep the happy in the holidays this year.
We have all seen the home security camera footage of porch pirates stealing packages in plain sight. And as the holiday shipping season ramps up, so do porch pirates who target unsuspecting homeowners. When making a purchase online, take advantage of electronic delivery alerts and other protections to make sure your gifts are safely delivered and received. It may also be helpful to instruct any delivery drivers to drop off packages in a safe location at a specific time, or opt to pick up any delivered items yourself at the nearest facility or local store. You can also check in with neighbors and see if they will pick up something at your door when you’re away.
While planning your holiday decor, plan your display according to the number and location of available outlets, and avoid overloading electrical outlets. Use lights that have been tested for safety – look for a certification mark from UL, CSA, ETL or other nationally-recognized laboratories. Consider using LED lights when possible – they run cooler, use less energy and last longer than incandescent lights.
When decorating the outside of your home, keep yourself, your decorations and equipment at least 10 feet from power lines. Make sure decorations are well ventilated, protected from weather and a safe distance away from flammable items. Plug all outdoor lights and decorations into ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to reduce the risk of electric shock. Portable GFCIs for outdoor use can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold.
If purchasing a real Christmas tree, ensure it is watered consistently; further, when it dies, throw it out! A drier tree makes for kindling. Use non-combustible decorations where possible. Keep Christmas trees and combustible decorations away from your fireplace, space heater and open flames.
Throughout the holiday season, turn off all lights and electrical decorations before leaving your home or office, or going to bed. If possible, use battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles to avoid the hazards of an open flame. If you choose to light candles, place them away from flammable or combustible materials, including other decorations, fabrics, plastic or paper products.
When cooking big meals, make sure the head chef isn’t drinking, wearing loose-fitting or flammable clothing and that multiple parties aren’t going in and out of the kitchen. Also, pro-tip, fry the turkey outside if you can.
Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. She is the author of “The Joy of $aving: Money Lessons I Learned From My Italian-American Father & 20 Years as a Consumer Reporter.” Jeanette is a regular contributor to TheStreet. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday, and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to “The Today Show” and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her money saving tips and ways to give back on Facebook: Jeanette Pavini: The Joy of $aving Community. Find links to her social media and her book at JeanettePavini.com.