The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they are also a time of increased risk. Consider the extra visitors alone. Every person who walks through your door brings with them the chance of an accident, another opportunity for injuries on your property or damage to their belongings.
While disaster-proofing your house might not be high on your priority list amid all the holiday chaos, there are a few simple (and fast) things you can do to prevent accidents and injuries.
Here are eight steps to prepare you and your loved ones for a happy, safe season.
In the Kitchen
The holidays would be incomplete without a delicious feast and all the trimmings. Whether you're cooking for just a few folks or hosting a party, consider these details:
1. Check food ingredient labels for allergens (<5 minutes): Allergic reactions to foods are at best unpleasant and at worst deadly. Read the ingredient list for any foods you buy (but especially new or unfamiliar foods or brands). Let your guests know about potential allergens, such as nuts, dairy, shellfish, and eggs.
2. Invest in a food thermometer (<1 hour): Undercooked food can cause illness (and burnt food isn't particularly pleasant, either). A food thermometer can help you make sure your dishes are perfectly prepared and safe to consume. If your recipe calls for frying, a thermometer can also measure the oil temperature to prevent overheating – definitely worth it, as 53 percent of home cooking fires are caused by grease or oil. Your guests (and your kitchen) will thank you.
Around the Tree
Christmas trees are a fixture in many households around this time of year. Keep your tree from becoming a danger with these tips:
3. Keep it away from heat sources and make sure it's watered (<1 hour): Dry trees catch fire more easily than watered ones, and they cause deadlier fires because they burn so fast. Keep your tree clear of any heat sources – radiators, candles, space heaters, etc. – and make sure you water it daily. Your tree stand should have at least five quarts of water in it at all times.
4. Check for bugs (<1 hour): While rare, bugs like aphids, spiders, and praying mantises can live and breed in trees and cause infestations. You can usually do an initial check at the lot where you purchase your tree (knock the trunk against the ground to shake out anything living). Want extra assurance? Spray your tree with a plant-friendly insecticide or leave it outside for a few days to let any bugs crawl out.
5. Choose the right lights (<5 minutes): When buying and hanging lights, check to see whether they're for indoor or outdoor use. New lights will be marked in the box. If you're dealing with old lights, check the UL tag: a green tag means approved for indoor use and a red or silver tag means outdoor. Using the wrong type of lights can increase your risk of fire.
6. Get rid of your tree (~45 minutes for removal and cleanup of a 10-foot tree): According to the NFPA, 21 percent of Christmas tree fires happen between February and November, thanks to lingering trees. The longer you keep your tree, the drier and more flammable it gets (see above). If you don't have time or can't drag your tree outside, you can have someone remove your tree and clean up leftover debris for under $100.
Before you turn in, take some time to prevent fires and break-ins with these easy steps:
7. Blow out candles (<5 minutes): The top five days for candle fires are Christmas Day, New Year's Day, New Year's Eve, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve. Candle fires are often caused by candles that sit too close to other items, are knocked over, or burn too low in a glass container (which can cause an explosion). Taking five minutes to blow out all your candles before turning in for the night can prevent a dangerous house fire. Fake candles are also an excellent alternative – many of them glow and flicker just like the real thing.
8. Set your security alarms and lock the doors (<5 minutes): The holidays can be a tempting time for thieves. Minimize the risk that your valuables will be taken (and your property damaged in a break-in) by making sure your doors are locked and your security alarm is active every night. That goes double if you plan to travel during the holidays: make sure your home is secure while you're gone.
Keep the Holidays Happy
Though the holidays come with some risks, they're easy to address. Take a few minutes to invest in your guests' safety before cooking a holiday feast or hanging another string of lights. That way you can focus on what matters: celebrating with the people you care about.
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