Help your customers prevent these top holiday hazards

By: Ellen Lichtenstein, Principal Staff Writer

Thanksgiving may be the start of the holiday season but it’s also the number one day for house fires, according to research by the National Fire Protection Association. And it’s not just fires! The holidays bring with them numerous hazards. While we hope you and your customers will never have to deal with them, it’s important to insure these risks just in case.

If you haven’t spoken to your clients lately, now is a great time to check in and make sure they’re covered for some of the most common holiday hazards. Check out our list, including a few handy prevention tips you can pass along.

Fire in the hole! 

Nine out of ten “experts” (distant cousins in charge of the turkey) agree—misuse of a turkey fryer is the number one way to set your house on fire this Thanksgiving. Even if you’re not using a fryer, an unattended oven or cooktop can make your holiday plans go up in flames.

What to do? 

Typically, homeowner’s insurance will cover fires but not all policies are created equal. You also never know when someone has remodeled, invested in new furniture or art, or many other circumstances that would change the level of coverage they need. Make sure your clients have sufficient coverage for their home and personal property in case of a kitchen nightmare.

How to prevent it

Of course, you could always just eat out on Thanksgiving (although leaving the house presents its own dangers, as we’ll talk about below), but if you are going to cook, make sure you’re doing it as safely as possible.

  • Use your fryer outdoors and make sure you’re far away from flammable surfaces like a wooden deck, trees, or things you don’t want to catch on fire such as your car.

  • Never operate the fryer if it’s raining or snowing.

  • Never leave your fryer unattended!

  • Fully thaw your turkey before continuing.

  • Follow all instructions on your fryer for how to use it safely.

  • Keep children, pets, and meddlesome house guests away from the fryer.

  • If you’re cooking indoors, don’t allow people to crowd into the kitchen and don’t get distracted while you’re cooking.

  • Never cook if you’re tired or under the influence of alcohol or any other medication that may impair your coordination.

Grandma got runover by a reindeer

It probably won’t be reindeer-induced, but car accidents during the holidays are no joke. With more people traveling, the roads are more crowded. Mix that with fewer daylight hours, snow and icy weather, and holiday parties with alcohol and it’s no wonder the holiday season brings a spike in traffic accidents and deaths.

What to do?

Your customers should have at least the legally required minimum auto insurance, but that is hardly ever enough. Take this chance to make sure your customers, including all covered members of their policy (like kids home from college) have enough protection. Accidents can happen anytime, but winter conditions make them even more likely, and that’s a good reason to reach out and check in. Maybe it’s time to consider adding an umbrella policy or increasing liability coverage for peace of mind this winter.

How to prevent it

Of course, there’s no way to avoid all accidents. But following some common-sense rules can certainly help lower your risk.

  • Make sure your vehicles are weather-ready. That might mean a full tune-up, installing snow tires, or having chains in the trunk, among many other possible precautions.

  • Avoid driving when the roads are bad. Even if it’s your great-aunt’s 90th Christmas party, if the roads are icy it’s simply smarter to stay home. If you can’t avoid travel, plan to leave early or late (depending on the weather) to get the best possible road conditions.

  • Never drive while tired or under the influence of alcohol or other medications that affect you.

  • Plan your holiday travel routes to allow plenty of time, rest stops, and using the best maintained roads. Being in a rush doesn’t mix well with winter weather.

  • Drive defensively. Again, winter conditions and aggressive driving don’t mix.

Pet Peeves

Your family pet is probably the last “person” you expected to find on this list of holiday hazards. In reality, your dog or cat can be a real threat when their home is invaded by loud visitors. It can be particularly rough if new children come into the mix and don’t understand the signs of a stressed-out animal.

What to do? 

This is one type of accident that people should be able to prevent entirely. By following the steps below, you can avoid putting your pet and your guests into a dangerous situation. But what if someone does get scratched or bitten badly enough to warrant medical care? How can insurance help?

Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies should include coverage for dog bites, but don’t leave anything to chance. If you haven’t spoken to your insureds for a while, how about giving them a call to make sure there aren’t any new pets or other liabilities that you’re not aware of? Remind your clients to read up on their state and local laws to make sure they aren’t keeping a pet that’s considered dangerous or even illegal (because if they are, insurance probably won’t cover it if that animal attacks someone!) This may be another instance where discussing an umbrella policy makes sense or even looking into specialty lines of coverage for liability on specific types of animals.

How to prevent it

  • The sure-fire way to keep your pets from doing harm to anyone is to keep them away from the party. Whether it’s closing off a room in your house, boarding them, or letting them stay with a sitter, keeping your animals separate from your holiday guests is what experts recommend.

  • If you can’t keep them completely separate, definitely don’t leave your pets unattended with strangers.

  • Work with your vet to try medications to ease anxiety and help your pets relax.

  • Make sure your houseguests know and understand how to interact with your animals to keep both sides happy.

  • Never leave anyone, but particularly children, alone with your pets.

Of course, these aren’t the only potential hazards your customers might encounter this holiday season. The list of what can go wrong when you combine family, winter weather, stress, and alcohol is extensive. Whatever the hazards may be, we hope this got you thinking about connecting with your clients, not only to wish them a safe and happy holiday season but to make sure they know how to minimize their own risks and protect themselves with insurance.