If you’re planning a traditional, multi-generational holiday get-together, know that you’ll likely have plenty of company. Nearly 63% of people surveyed this fall said they’ll travel for the holidays (up 37% from last year), with only about one in five saying they’ll stick with socially distanced celebrations.
Besides digging out those old family recipes, your holiday-hosting comeback calls for some important safety preps.
Holiday gatherings lead to an uptick in claims
For many families, December is the one time of year when everyone gets together – and a lot can change between visits! Babies become curious toddlers. Elders may have grown a bit unsteady on their feet. Unused fireplaces and guest rooms are suddenly pressed back into service.
Unfortunately, insurance companies also notice changes – a slight uptick in claims for mishaps ranging from slip-and-fall accidents and dog bites to driving-under-the-influence crashes – all related to holiday gatherings.
Here are our top-10 tips to ensure your celebration is safe for guests of all ages and abilities:
Outdoor hosting preps
De-ice driveways, sidewalks and stairs. Apply de-icer long enough before the party that it has time to work and, for peace of mind, check that it’s labeled “pet safe.” Avoid home-remedy de-icers like lawn fertilizer since they can be corrosive to metal, damaging to concrete, and dangerous to pets, some plants and local waterways.
Provide a big, absorbent doormat. That way, people can thoroughly wipe their feet to avoid tracking in water that will make your floor slippery.
Rope off outside dangers. That includes rail-less raised patios, drop-offs and water features if, for example, a guest steps outside in the dark for some fresh air. Also, tape down electrical cords. Holiday lighting often means running extension cords in places where people could stumble over them, especially in the dark.
Indoor hosting preps
Replace burned-out light bulbs and remove scatter rugs. Good lighting and fewer trip hazards reduce fall risks for older guests and people wearing slick-soled or high-heeled shoes.
Block off hot fireplace glass. An accidental fall against superheated glass (up to 500 degrees on some gas fireplace models) can result in serious burns for a toddler.
Secure the tree and skip the tablecloth. To toddlers looking to steady themselves, a holiday tree or tablecloth can seem like a good handhold. When they pull, they risk being injured by the toppling tree or table contents. (You can use a ceiling or wall hook and fishing line to steady the top of the tree – also great if your cat is a climber!) Keep vintage decorations stored until kids outgrow the “look with their hands” stage.
Opt for flameless LED candles. Unlike the real thing, they can’t spill hot wax or ignite flammable decorations if they get bumped. Compared to an ordinary day, fire danger doubles on Christmas mostly because of candle, chimney and cooking fires.
Give your dog the day off. Ringing doorbells, strange voices and rowdy kids can rattle even a friendly pet. Eliminate the risk of a bite by treating your dog to a stay at the pet spa or the serenity of an off-limits bedroom until guests leave.
Preps for the host
Appoint a non-cook for doorbell duty. Cooks who dash to greet guests at the door often must leave pots unattended on the stove, a leading cause of kitchen fires.
Go easy on the alcohol. Mix modestly and stop serving alcohol at least 90 minutes before the party ends. Serve plenty of protein-rich food (slows digestion) and avoid salty snacks since they make people thirsty and likely to drink more. If a guest still overdoes it, offer a ride home or call a rideshare. Alcohol counselors tell us that the best way to convince someone not to drive is to express concern they may get ticketed or lose their license. Oddly, that’s a stronger motivator than your heartfelt worries about their safety.
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