Keeping your home safe during the holidays


Jim Myers' photo of Christmas lights in Enola, PA

HARRISBURG — The Wolf Administration is offering home safety and fire prevention tips to citizens in its effort to promote a safe and happy holiday season for all citizens.

“In modern homes, some of our most cherished holiday traditions can pose significant fire risks,” said State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego. “Home decoration fires are surprisingly common, and the most common ignition source is a lit candle. Also, don’t let the holiday season get the upper hand on you by forgetting to water live trees.”

Commissioner Trego offered several other suggestions for keeping your home safe:

  • Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Keep all holiday greenery, including trees, well-watered.
  • Never leave burning candles or cooking appliances unattended.
  • Always keep children and pets away from open flames and hot surfaces.
  • Replace any string of lights that has worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections and avoid connecting more than three strands of lights on a tree.
  • Be sure to turn off holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors save lives; ensure your home is properly equipped.

Holiday party hosts should be aware of the legal responsibilities that go with holding a gathering in their home, especially if alcohol is being served.

“The holidays are a wonderful time to gather with family and friends, but hosting an event comes with legal responsibilities,” said Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman. “A good host should consider taking simple steps to ensure that everyone enjoys themselves safely.”

Altman advised Pennsylvanians to make sure their guests are drinking responsibly, offer a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, stop serving alcohol toward the end of the party, and arrange for a ride or offer a guest to stay overnight if they had too much to drink or are too tired to drive home.

Homeowners and renters insurance often provides some liability coverage, but this coverage varies by policy, Altman explained. She recommended that individuals who are planning to host a party review their policy or discuss their coverage with their insurance professional.

Altman also explained that Pennsylvanians should take precautions when purchasing or receiving expensive holiday gifts, such as jewelry, electronics, or firearms.

“Consumers should review their homeowners or renters insurance to make sure the coverage allotted for contents is enough for recently obtained expensive items. Most policies have specific, lower limits for valuable items such as those just listed,” Altman said. “I also caution consumers about displaying unwrapped expensive gifts. Make sure these items are not visible through windows or doors, where a potential thief could see them. Also, when discarding boxes for bigger items like televisions and computers, be sure to break down the boxes and put them on the curb as close to your trash pickup time as possible, so as not to draw attention to a recently obtained expensive item.”

Altman also encouraged anyone traveling to refrain from posting vacation pictures on social media until they return, to avoid making it known the home is unoccupied.

“It’s incredibly important to make sure your home is properly equipped with smoke alarms,” said Commissioner Trego. “From the moment a smoke alarm sounds, occupants may have as little as two minutes to safety exit the house.”

Source: Office of the State Fire Commissioner

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