Keeping your home safe during the holiday period

Don’t let Christmas turn into a disaster. Follow these 6 hot tips and ensure your home stays disaster-free.

Whether you’re heading off to the beach or entertaining family and friends at home, the Christmas break should be a time of fun and relaxation for everyone. But the average home contains a variety of potential hazards which it pays to be prepared for. Here are a few useful tips to help keep your home hazard-free this Christmas.

The holiday tips you need to know

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1. Keep your Christmas tree hazard-free

The Christmas tree encapsulates everything magical about the holiday season, but it can be a potential fire hazard as well. Here are some tree-related safety tips you may want to keep in mind:

  • Christmas lights are often imported these days and may not conform to Australian safety standards. Check the packaging before use to make sure they are safe.
  • Avoid using second-hand Christmas lights and if you’re using last year’s, check them over to make sure the wiring and bulbs are all intact and working.
  • Try not to overload power boards and extension cords with too many plugs. Rather than piggybacking, which can be dangerous, use a second power board instead.
  • If you are using a real tree rather than a plastic one, choose one that is fresh rather than old and brown because dry pine needles are more prone to catch fire.
  • Keep your tree at least three feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces, heaters or candles.
  • To be on the safe side, always turn your Christmas tree lights off when going to bed.

2. Exercise BBQ safety

Christmas lunch prepared on the barbie is about as Australian as it gets, but BBQ-related fires and injuries increase over the Christmas period, so here are some safe BBQ practices to remember:

  • Keep your BBQ clean before, during and after use. Built-up grease and fat are a major cause of BBQ fires.
  • Have a fire blanket or extinguisher located near your BBQ so if you do have a fire, you will be able to put it out quickly before it has a chance to spread.
  • If you’re cooking with a charcoal grill, make sure the fire is fully out once you are done for the day.
  • If you are using a portable BBQ, cook outside away from any structures, and pay particular attention to any overhanging tree branches when setting up.
  • Make sure you set up your portable BBQ on a flat surface, and that it is completely stable. If cooking on a veranda or patio, consider a splatter mat to protect your deck.
  • If you are preparing to use your gas BBQ for the first time this season, check the hose for leaks by applying soapy water to the outside of the hose. The soapy water will bubble if any gas is escaping.
  • Make sure the BBQ is supervised at all times and don’t let kids or pets play near it.

3. Make necessary repairs now

If you are having guests over during the Christmas break, it’s a good idea to make sure your home is safe and people-friendly, otherwise you could find yourself facing a lawsuit if someone injures themselves on your property.

Look around your house and yard and make any necessary repairs, including the following:

  • Veranda rails. Make sure they are strong and intact.
  • Steps. Repair any loose boards and tripping hazards.
  • Lawn. Clean up dog poo and mow the lawn, so there are no hidden surprises for your guests.
  • Pool. Make sure your pool is fully fenced and compliant (mandatory in most states these days).
  • Yard. Pick up and store away any objects that could be potentially dangerous to children.
  • Pets. If your dog is not overly people-friendly, make sure you tie it up in case unexpected guests arrive.

4. Consider reviewing your home and contents policy

As well as making any necessary repairs to ensure your home is safe for guests, it is a good idea to review your home and contents insurance at this time of year. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you underinsured? Have you made any recent alterations or renovations to your home that you haven’t included in your policy?
  • Are you liable? Do you have liability insurance in your policy to protect yourself from third-party injury claims?
  • Is your contents insurance up to date? Have you purchased any new furniture, appliances or valuables that aren’t included in your contents insurance?
  • Are you covered for burglary? If you plan to go away over the holiday season, will your policy replace all your valuables?

5. Prepare for bushfire season

If your home is in a bushfire prone area, this is the time of year to prepare. The following precautions can help reduce the risk:

  • Controlled burning. If you own acreage, get a permit and do a controlled burn around your property (you should only do this on windless days when the vegetation is still relatively damp).
  • Fuel reduction. Slash and mow the grass as well as remove overhanging branches and vegetation from around buildings.
  • Safe storage. If you have combustibles such as paint or chemicals, make sure they are stored well away from the house in sheds or outbuildings.
  • Home maintenance. Clean leaves and debris from gutters and downpipes and install gutter guards to prevent build up.
  • Equipment maintenance. Make sure pumps and firefighting equipment are in good working order and water sources such as dams and swimming pools are full.

6. Secure your home if you go away

The holiday season is a peak time for burglaries, so make sure your home is secure if you plan to go away for any length of time. Precautions to put in place include the following:

  • Have your mail held at the post office and cancel any regular deliveries, such as newspapers or magazines, so that your overflowing letterbox is not a red flag for potential burglars.
  • Have a word with a trusted neighbour and ask them to keep an eye out for you. Ask them to bring in your rubbish bins if they need to be emptied while you are away.
  • Lock doors and windows securely before you leave and don’t leave a key under the flower pot as this is the first place burglars will look.
  • Set the alarm if you have one or consider installing sensor lights around your house to deter night-time prowlers.
  • If possible, leave a car in your driveway (you could ask your neighbour to park theirs there), and have a light (and possibly the TV) on a timer, so it looks like someone is always home.
  • Set your answering machine to take messages as an unanswered phone is a red flag to burglars.

If all this hasn’t put you off entertaining guests or going away over Christmas, have a happy and safe festive season!
Picture: Shutterstock


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Alex Koster

Alexandra is the Assistant Publisher for insurance at finder.com.au. Her hobbies include reading Product Disclosure Statements, deciphering complicated insurance lingo, and helping people find the right cover for their needs.

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