Protecting Yourself and Loved Ones at the Holidays: A Safety Guide

The statistics say it all: Christmas trees start 260 home fires per year. Turkey fryers, commonly used at Thanksgiving, have caused $8 million in property damage since 2002. And around the Fourth of July, fireworks injuries send 250 people to the emergency room every day.

Every holiday has its dangers. Home fires, traffic accidents, burglaries and other common occurrences can all result in a holiday tragedy. Fortunately, people who take precautions can protect themselves, their guests, and their loved ones at the holidays.

Independence Day

Because it’s in the summer, Independence Day is one of the most popular holidays. Fireworks and grilling in the backyard, however, create their own hazards. Knowing how to avoid disaster can help make your Fourth of July celebrations much more enjoyable.

Grilling Safety

  • Keep your grill well away from your house and overhanging trees.
  • Keep children from running in the vicinity of the grill.
  • Never leave a grill unattended without covering the flames.

Fireworks Safety

  • Follow all manufacturer’s directions when lighting fireworks.
  • Keep children far back in a roped-off section to prevent them from coming into contact with fireworks.
  • Never light illegal fireworks.
  • Do not light fireworks while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Outdoor Safety

  • Provide ample water to members of your party.
  • Provide shade to your guests.
  • Have your children wear sunblock throughout the day, and make sunblock available to guests as well.
  • Never allow children to play in outdoor pools unattended.
  • Close and lock the gate to your outdoor pool if you’re not using it at your party, or if it’s going to be unattended for any length of time.


Halloween is great fun for the kids, but keeping them safe can be a challenge. Trick-or-treating can be dangerous because it happens in the dark, and because children are susceptible to accidents. In addition, pumpkins and candles can be a dangerous combination.

  • Use electric candles, or simple flashlights, in pumpkins.
  • Make children wear reflective clothing.
  • Do not allow your child to wear a costume that drags on the ground, or a mask that covers parts of the eyes.
  • Check all candy before allowing children to eat it.
  • Hold hands with small children while they trick-or-treat.
  • Do not allow older children to trick-or-treat alone.
  • Trick-or-treat in neighborhoods with sidewalks.

Christmas and Thanksgiving

Christmas and Thanksgiving are full of dangers, from home fires to electrical issues to burglaries. Some of the best ways to avoid danger at these holidays include:

  • Bake your turkey instead of frying it.
  • Serve limited alcohol at big meals, and only serve alcohol with food.
  • Avoid lighting real candles at parties. If you must use real candles, keep them away from children and make sure they’re on a stable surface.
  • Never leave a fire burning unattended in the fireplace.
  • Have your fireplace cleaned before using it to ensure that the chimney is clear and safe to use.
  • Avoid plugging all holiday lights into one outlet.
  • Plug outdoor electrical lights into GFCI outlets.
  • Do not allow electrical cords to cross over pathways to your front door.
  • Have packages delivered to the office instead of to your house to avoid attracting attention from thieves.
  • Hide leftover boxes from expensive gifts in the trash; do not leave the boxes sitting out on the curb.
  • If you’re expecting guests, keep your walkway clear of snow and ice.

New Year’s Day, Memorial Day and Other Party Holidays

For many people, holidays like New Year’s and Memorial Day are an occasion for a big party with socializing, eating, and drinking. The greatest threat at these holidays is often the consumption of alcohol, which when drunk in sufficient amounts can lead to car accidents and alcohol poisoning. According to the Information Insurance Institute, social host liability laws exist in 43 states, and many of these laws allow victims of drinking-related accidents to sue the party host who provided the alcohol. If you’re throwing a holiday party, take these steps to limit your liability:

  • Serve food at your party, and offer a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.
  • As the party progresses, shift to serving more coffee, tea, and other non-alcoholic beverages until you are no longer serving alcoholic beverages at all.
  • Stay sober yourself, so you’ll know when to ask party goers for their keys.
  • Have multiple guest beds ready and offer guests a place to stay overnight if they need one.
  • Practice a few non-confrontational lines to encourage guests to stay overnight if they seem intoxicated. Something like, “You look tired; wouldn’t you like to stay over? I’m making pancakes in the morning,” is a good way to keep  guests off the roads.

If possible, have your party at a restaurant with a professional bar tender. This puts some of the onus on the restaurant to monitor your guests’ drinking and limits your own liability.

Protect Yourself When Leaving Town

Many people go away at the holidays to spend time with relatives, friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, a house that is left empty for long periods of time is vulnerable to break-ins and thefts. Luckily there are many things that can be done to protect your home from burglaries.

  • Avoid mentioning on social media that you’ll be out of town, and don’t provide dates.
  • Avoid posting social media posts about your trip while you’re away. Wait until you’ve returned to share information.
  • Give your neighbors your contact information and ask them to watch out for any unusual activity while you’re gone.
  • Ask your neighbors to bring in your mail and park in your driveway to make your home seem occupied.
  • Have your lawn tended while you’re gone.
  • Install timers on your lights and television to make your home look occupied at night.
  • Suspend subscriptions and have your mail held while you’re away.

Stay Safe No Matter What Holiday Is Being Celebrated

Danger is everywhere, at every holiday. Always be aware of the risks when having a holiday celebration. Ask yourself questions like “how can this go wrong?” and “what can I do to improve safety?”

Remember that any activity that involves fire, cooking, pools, alcohol, hot temperatures, freezing temperatures or the use of electricity has some inherent danger. By thinking through all the aspects of holiday safety before having a party, giving gifts, or making a meal, you can minimize risk and allow yourself to focus on what the holidays are really for.


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