Holiday Safety Guide (At Home and on the Go)

holiday safety guide

With the holidays in full swing, you’ve no doubt already encountered a few near-misses: the uncle who doesn’t use the guard while slicing vegetables with the mandoline, the brother-in-law who’s a few beers in by the time he lights the frier, the deep freeze on the way to holiday shopping that creates instant black ice. (No? Just us?) 

To help this season and in seasons to come, we’ve rounded up our best holiday safety tips for your DIY activities. Whether you’re hosting on the homefront or traveling for your celebrations, we’ve got you covered with few solid reminders and easy ways to shore up safety in your home and on the road and to make sure you’re protected financially if things do go awry.

holiday snow shoveling

The holidays can be a time for particularly odd insurance claims. Beware of Christmas trees too loosely tied to the roofs of cars in front of you (they can come undone and come crashing right into you) and even wrapping paper mishaps (really! – it’s the tool used to cut that does the damage most often). And, when ordering online or sending gifts to faraway relatives, make sure to protect yourself against package theft.

Fortunately your homeowners or renters insurance policy and your auto insurance policy can help with many of these seasonal mishaps. It’s important to check your coverage each year as your needs can easily change (new family members, new acquisitions, new neighbors). Here’s what to look for with each:

Insurance for Your Home:

  • An affordable deductible (remember, if something happens, you’ll have to cover the cost)
  • Adequate line itemization for all big-ticket items (keep in mind you’ll probably need an independent appraisal for each item)
  • A coverage limit that will really cover all of your assets: you can be sued if your homeowners policy doesn’t cover a victim’s costs
  • Consider whether security cameras might offer you peace of mind
  • And of course, make sure all of your payments are up to date

Insurance for Your Car:

  • An up-to-date car insurance policy
  • If you’re among the 70% of Americans who live in an area that will see snow this winter, you might want to consider adding comprehensive and collision insurance (if you don’t already have it) so if you slide on black ice and crash, your repair costs are covered
  • And, as with your homeowners policy, you’ll want to consider whether your liability coverage is really enough for where you drive to protect against costly damages you might cause to others; Winter driving carries significant risks, and if you crash into a $80,000 car, for example, but your liability vehicle damage coverage only goes to $10,000, you can be sued for the difference

Umbrella Insurance:

  • Umbrella insurance is additional liability coverage that applies when you have exceeded the liability portion of your home insurance or auto insurance coverage, and helps to protect you in the event of a lawsuit or a major insurance claim filed against you
holiday safety guide gift red bow
Beware the dangers of ribbon curling.

Step 2: Staying Safe at Home:

As our poor fingerless family member found out post-mandoline, the home can present a whole host of everyday dangers, especially during holiday-prep mode. (Just kidding about that finger, the doctors sewed it back together.) Our best holiday safety advice when hosting family and friends:

The Holiday Party

  • Be careful not to overserve guests, and make sure everyone has a safe way to get home (either by way of a designated driver, taxi, or rideshare).
  • Properly maintain your walkways, outside stairs, and driveways. Use salt (or salt-alternative like kitty litter) anywhere you or your guests will walk. Keep on top of shoveling during snowstorms (it’s easier to shovel three inches of snow three times than nine inches of hard-packed and icy snow once).
  • Keep an eye on icicles. They might be pretty, but they’re pretty dangerous as well. Break off existing icicles if you can safely reach them, and prevent them from forming by keeping your roof cold to avoid ice dams (more here).

Dangerous Decorations

Outdoor holiday lights bring festive cheer nationwide. But whether you have Clark Griswold dreams or something more modest, take these steps to ensure Christmas light safety:

  • Inspect your lights and extension cords before hanging anything up. Make sure they all work and that they’re officially marked for external use (and are therefore water resistant).
  • Most manufacturers advise a limit of three connected strands per electrical socket, so check the box.
  • Don’t connect strands with nails, staples, or anything that could potentially puncture the wires.
  • Empty sockets aren’t just an eyesore, they can cause overheating, so replace them ASAP.
  • Keep all cords and wires away from standing water.
  • Don’t leave lights on while you’re away from the house or sleeping, and limit your display to 90 days.

Cooking Safety

  • Don’t be a hero (or, ahem, a show-off). Use all guards, covers, mitts, and other protection devices and, as always, keep kids away from anything sharp, hot, or even remotely weapon-like.
  • Whether you’re frying a turkey or, god help you, a turducken, there are critical safety tips to follow. We find Serious Eats’ guide thorough, easy to follow, and properly enticing yet sobering. They begin: “Deep-frying a turkey is an inherently dangerous undertaking. But if you still have dreams of the juiciest turkey you’ve ever tasted, be sure to follow all safety and cooking advice and save that cocktail for a post-fry reward.” Remember not to deep fry a frozen turkey! Check out this State Farm video where William Shatner show the dangers of explosive frozen poultry:

Step 3: Staying Safe on the Road

If your holiday plans take you away from home – whether you’re planning a long trip or just heading to the next town over – follow these steps to improve your chances of a trouble-free ride:

  • Fill your windshield washer fluid and antifreeze containers completely. You don’t need a special winter weather fluid (and in fact, might not even be able to find it). Washer fluid is already mostly methyl alcohol, but if you live somewhere very cold and the fluid tends to turn to slush, you can add more methyl alcohol to the mix to lower the freeze point, says Popular Mechanics. Another trick: keep your windshield as warm as possible by using the defroster on the warmest temperature and highest fan setting.
  • Pop open the hood and check your battery connections for corrosion. If you notice some, you’ll want to address the problem before you end up stranded out in the cold.
  • Engine air filters should be replaced twice a year, and doing so before the cold and busy season is a good choice. You can DIY if you’re so inclined without too much trouble.
  • Check your spare tire and consider replacing it if it’s not in tip-top condition. How to tell:
    • Look at the manufacturer’s expiration date
    • Make sure visually everything looks up to snuff – no nails, holes, or other issues
    • Check the tire pressure and tread depth
  • Pack your car’s emergency kit with winter-weather essentials like a warm blanket and road salt (or even sand or kitty litter).
  • Weatherproof your car, no matter whether you live in a cold climate or warm: pay special attention to your tires and battery.

Enjoy the holiday season – carefully!