As enjoyable and celebratory as the holiday season can be, it is important to remember that it can also be a dangerous time for your home. Two major threats—burglaries and fires—spike during the holiday season, so it is wise to arm yourself and your family with knowledge about what you can all do to protect your home and yourselves.
Preventing break-ins and thefts
"The economy has prompted many 'normal' people into 'abnormal' behaviors. When people are desperate to cover their own or their family's needs, your family could well be targeted. Simply understand that proactive strategies can keep everyone honest—both those you know and those you think you know," says Jeff McKissack, a speaker and instructor for DefenseByDesign.com.
To lessen the window of opportunity others have to steal from your home during the holidays, McKissack offers the following advice:
- Do not leave the outer boxes from expensive gifts (1especially electronics) on the curb outside your home. You are telling would-be thieves what lies inside your home.
- If hosting or attending parties, take care of what room houses the coats and jackets of attendees. Hard times are upon all of us, so make sure not to leave any temptations in the paths of friends or would-be friends by way of expensive coats, jackets, or articles left in your coats and jackets. If hosting, make sure you are the only person with access to this room.
- Also when hosting, make sure your more valuable portable possessions are out of harm's and temptation's way.
- Stephen Spivey, author of Your Self Defense Survival Guide, says that people's hectic schedules during the holiday season are a common reason why break-ins spike at this time. "There are gifts to buy, food to prepare, and guests that are visiting. Criminals understand this well, so casing your home becomes a bit easier. Be more aware of your surroundings," he says.
In addition to this guidance, Spivey offers the following tips:
- When bringing gifts home from the store, always park in the garage or out of sight from potential thieves. Thieves make a checklist of gifts brought into people's homes, so they can go "shopping" while you are away.
- When you go shopping at night, turn on at least two lights (and possibly a radio or television) to help your house have that "somebody is home" feel. Have each light come on at different times throughout the day as well as the television.
- A big mistake occurring frequently today is posting your vacation dates on social media and networking sites before you leave. Post the information after you have returned from the vacation of a lifetime.
- Have a friend drop by your place to water your plants. This activity will deter criminals.
Minimizing fire hazards
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim more than 400 lives, injure1,650 people, and cause more than $990 million in damage. To help ensure that you, your family, and your home are safe during this time, consider the following tips provided by CSA International, a leading testing, certification, and anti-counterfeiting organization:
- Inspect holiday light strings each year and discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders, or loose connections.
- Never run electrical cords through doorways or under carpets and rugs.
- Always turn off holiday lights when you leave the house unattended or when going to bed.
- Do not use open flames or candles on or near flammable materials such as wreaths, trees, or paper decorations.
- Avoid hanging decorations on or near objects like fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, exit corridors, or exit signs that can hinder one's vision and safety.
- When hanging lights outdoors, keep electrical connectors above ground, out of puddles or snow, and away from metal gutters.
- When possible, connect all outdoor lighting into receptacles protected by waterproof ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). These can provide protection from electric shock by sensing ground leakage and cutting electrical power.