Insurance and Finance

Preventing Household Hazards this Holiday Season

By Jennifer Chappell Smith 12.1.16

If there were ever a time for “bless your heart,” the Griswold family would be it. From accident-prone Clark’s unfortunate mishaps to poor Fluffy’s run-in with a plugged-in light strand — the Griswolds bring a joy of their very own to TV screens across the world. Why? Because outside of being absolutely hilarious, it’s relatable. I mean, come on — who hasn’t wanted to put their boot straight through a holiday decoration when things won’t light up like they should? (By the way, insurance won’t cover that.) 

From cooking with family to entertaining guests, be sure to keep these insurance liabilities top of mind this holiday season.

Prevent Household Fires

Even as we try, like Clark Griswold, to create holiday magic for our families, accidents happen, and they aren’t always humorous. In fact, decorations and cooking — two of arguably the best things about Christmas — are the leading causes of home fires, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III) citing data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Don’t be a Cousin Catherine — the NFPA reports that the leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Avoid distractions when prepping that holiday meal or baking treats for family and friends; and as a fail-safe, always set a timer (we suggest one on your phone or a portable timer you can keep in in your pocket) anytime you use the oven.

Be a Responsible Party Host

Depending on Clark’s insurance coverage, he could have been responsible for any injuries Uncle Lewis may have sustained when he went up in flames. From icy front steps that can cause falls to soirees poolside, where a guest may fall into the water, risks require insurance coverage that protects you against liability. Guests may even hold you liable if food and beverages they consume at your home result in accidents. Have fun, but don’t let the fun gift exchange game get too rowdy! The III has details about social host liability on its website, so brush up before your next shindig and talk to your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent about adding umbrella insurance to your policy for an extra layer of protection.

Checklist for Holiday Hazards

To keep your family and your property safe, take these precautions to ensure you’ll have as merry of a Christmas as the Griswolds eventually had — even though Aunt Bethany sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” instead of “Silent Night” at the end of the movie.

Uncle Lewis may have burned down the Griswolds’ tree with his cigar (and lit himself on fire!), but the NFPA says that tree-related blazes are more often caused by:

  • Electrical failures or malfunctions (30 percent)
  • Decorative lights (18 percent)
  • Wiring or related equipment (12 percent)
  • Cords or plugs (5 percent)

Prevent holiday hazards in your home with these simple tips:

  • Don’t leave candles unattended — the III reports December as the peak month for fires caused by candles.
  • Keep fire alarms and extinguishers in working order and test them frequently
  • Create a fire escape plan and review it with the whole family (including babysitters and frequent houseguests)
  • Check that wiring and lights are in good working order before leaving them unattended
  • Dispose of Christmas trees promptly — by season’s end, your tree is typically dry and can quickly ignite. The NFPA reports more than one-third of tree fires happen in January, long after the season’s end.

While it makes for great entertainment, consider National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation a cautionary tale. Check with your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent about the liability coverage on your homeowners policy, and make sure your property is insured for its full value — just in case holiday fun leads to disaster.

For more information on how to avoid other hazards while hosting this season, read “Holiday Party Liability Check.”

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2016 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance