Happy—and Safe!—Holidays: Five Tips For Disaster-Free Festivities

New York Press Office: (212) 346-5500; media@iii.org


NEW YORK, December 21, 2015 — Family, friends and festivities should be the focus of the holiday season, but don’t let this joyous time be marred by fire, theft, accidents and other disasters, advises the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).


Taking a few simple steps, and having the right insurance coverage can reduce these seasonal hazards. Start with these five safety tips:


  1. Be Fire Safe

December is the peak month for fires caused by candles. Christmas tree-related fires, while not as common as candle fires, are much more likely to be deadly.


Decorations and cooking are the two leading causes of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Take care when decorating for the holidays not to put decorations too close to a heat source, and never leave the stove unattended while cooking. Always be sure to have smoke alarms in working condition.


In the event of a fire, evacuate immediately. And prepare by developing and practicing a home fire escape plan with the whole family.


Fire, smoke and water damage are covered under homeowners and renters insurance policies.


  1. Protect Your Identity

Whether shopping online or in a brick-and-mortar store, the hustle and bustle of the holidays creates the perfect opportunity for thieves bent on stealing your credit card information.


To protect yourself, shop at reputable stores and check your credit card statements regularly, and if you find anything unusual, report it to your credit card company immediately. If your wallet is either lost or stolen, contact the police and your credit card company as soon as you can. 


Many standard homeowners insurance policies now include identity theft coverage. Moreover, most homeowners and renters policies provide some coverage for stolen cash or unauthorized use of your credit card.


  1. Burglar-Proof Your Home

December is the fifth most common month in which burglaries occur, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).


If you’re traveling over the holidays, have mail and packages picked up or held by the post office, use automatic timers to turn lights on and off at appropriate times and have a dependable neighbor check on the house periodically.


Consider making your home more secure with dead-bolt locks, window grates and smoke/fire/burglar alarms. An added benefit: most insurers provide discounts for devices that make a home safer.


Personal possessions are covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies—even holiday gifts stored in your car! 


  1. Be A Responsible Party Host

Throwing a holiday bash? Party hosts who serve alcohol at their gatherings can be held liable for injuries to a third party caused by a drunken guest.


Protect yourself—and your guests—by promoting safe alcohol consumption and having the proper insurance coverage.


To be a responsible host:

  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food.
  • Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening.
  • If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.


  1. Drive Safely—Especially in Winter Conditions

Safe driving and well-maintained vehicles take on even greater importance in winter.

  • Give yourself enough time to arrive at your destination; never rush in rainy, snowy or icy conditions.
  • Stay off the road between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. when drunk driving accidents are most likely
  • Obey speed limits and avoid all distractions (no texting, eating, grooming!) while behind the wheel.
  • Keep your gas tank full. Stormy weather or traffic delays that force you to change routes or turn back can result in the use of more gas.


If you have an accident, make sure you understand your auto insurance coverage and how to file a claim.


The I.I.I. has a full library of educational videos on its You Tube Channel. Information about I.I.I. mobile apps can be found here.


Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500; www.iii.org

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