Safe Home for the Holidays

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The holidays are here, and from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, our homes are often adorned with way more stuff than the rest of the year combined. If you’re not careful, you’ll be seeing more than sugar plums dancing around your head.

Here’s the jolly good low-down on keeping your house safe and secure for all of this year’s merry-making.

It’s fun to deck the halls, but don’t drop the ball when it comes to safe lighting. Some illuminating lighting tips will protect your family during the month.

Inspect your light strings. If any are frayed or damaged, throw those fire hazards away. Do not connect more than three strands of lights together. Light strings with stacked plugs can usually accommodate greater lengths than end-to-end connections. Replace burned-out bulbs promptly, as empty sockets can cause the entire string to overheat. Never use lights on a metallic tree; the risks of combining the two include fire and electric shock.

Indoor lights are meant for just that–indoors! Exterior lights and cords should be weather resistant and exterior approved. Don’t pull a Clark Griswold and hang lights with staples or nails. They can cut through the wire insulation and cause a fire.

Don’t keep your lighting up until February. The longer your lights hang outside, the more likely they are to break or get chewed on by wildlife. It also looks like you missed a New Year’s resolution to be organized and pick up after yourself.

Fresh is Best
Oh, Christmas tree, how dried out are your branches? When trees start dropping needles, it’s time to take them down. Holiday trees are festive, but every year they cause about $13 million in property damage. Fresh trees should be well watered and kept away from fire sources and furnaces. Candles can cause catastrophe as well. December is the peak time of year for home candle fires; often the main mistake for the homeowner or apartment resident is falling asleep and leaving one or more candles burning. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.

When it comes to plumbing, think prevention. Traditionally, December through February are the months when insurance companies get the highest number of claims for leaks. Extreme temperatures cause water in exposed plumbing lines to expand and burst pipes. Let cold water drip from faucets when it is very cold outside. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing. Disconnect hoses from exterior faucets and cover with insulation.

A house full of guests can wreak havoc on plumbing, so before family arrives, perform basic maintenance on the garbage disposal, sink, toilets and showers. For a feast-ready disposal, clear any debris and buildup by putting two cups of ice cubes and a cup of rock salt into the disposal and running the unit with cold water for about ten seconds.

Driveway Ice
Nothing says winter like a snow storm. Remove ice and snow with a shovel as soon as possible. Ice melts or salts are helpful to break the pavement-ice bond so driveways and sidewalks can be more easily cleared. Experts recommend applying the ice melt before a storm, but remember to use these products with caution. Make sure you keep young children and pets away from melts so they don’t ingest them; wipe your dog’s paws if they walk on it. Even very limited amounts of 100 percent sodium chloride can be lethal to pets.

The good news is, you’re least likely to be burgled on Christmas Day compared to any other day of the year! Even thieves take a couple of days off around the holidays. But according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, over 400,000 home burglaries happen at the holidays, mostly because thieves know loads of good stuff and cash await inside. To keep your gifts and goodies safe and sound, play it cool.

Don’t Post About your Paraphernalia
If you’re oversharing how much you like your new techno-gadget, then a would-be burglar might like it too. Thieves troll social media looking for gifts people have bought and received, so keep posting to a minimum. Don’t leave boxes outside. Break down or cut up boxes and stuff them into black garbage bags before putting them out for collection. And there’s no need to brag about your holiday trip to Jamaica unless you want some unexpected elves lifting your loot.

Lighting is Key
A working security system is your best bet, but good lighting is also important. Thieves are very successful in total darkness. Floodlights and motion-activated lighting keep them guessing. Shed some light on your abode, and thieves will be less likely to visit your home in the first place. ■

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