HAMILTON – Decorating for the holidays is festive tradition for many families. It’s a time to display their holiday spirit to neighbors, family and friends. However, it is important not to get caught up in magic of the season without remembering a few safety tips, especially when it comes to lights, live trees and other flammable decorations.
“This is a very merry time of year and trimming houses and trees is an annual custom for countless families. Unfortunately, safety is not always a top priority, which can lead to unnecessary house fires that destroy more than just the spirit of the season,” said Patti Atchley-Mayer, manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance Agency. “No one wants to spend their holidays filing an insurance claim.”
Christmas trees account for 250 fires annually, resulting in an estimated 14 deaths, 26 injuries and more than $13.8 million in property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
AAA Insurance Tips for Safe Holiday Decorating
- Always use non-flammable decorations.
- Place candles in non-flammable containers. Keep lit candles in a place where they can’t be knocked over or reach anything that could ignite.
- Water that tree. Don’t ever let your live tree dry out – it is a fire hazard.
- Check all bulbs and wires. Don’t use any lights with frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
- Discard and replace any cord that is hot to the touch.
- String lights through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks.
- Use surge protectors to avoid overloading your electrical outlets.
- Make sure outdoor lighting and extension cords are approved for outdoor use.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
- Unplug lights when you leave home or go to bed.
AAA Insurance Reminds Givers & Recipients to Check Insurance Coverage
Once the decorations are hung, holiday shopping is underway. AAA reminds gift givers and recipients to protect their valuable gifts when shopping and traveling for the holidays and later at home.
Safeguard Gifts When Shopping
“Put shopping bags out of sight in your vehicle or the Grinch may steal your gifts,” said Atchley-Mayer. “A few safety precautions will protect your gifts and your vehicle.”
If a thief does break into your vehicle, damage to your car is covered under the comprehensive coverage of the auto insurance policy. Personal property stolen out of the vehicle falls under the homeowners or renters insurance.
Buying or Receiving an Expensive Gift
If you give or receive expensive gifts this holiday season, you may want to:
- Contact your insurance agency. Find out if you need additional coverage.
- Have the item appraised. A floater policy premium will be based on the appraised value.
- Add the item to your home inventory. It’s a good idea to photograph all your possessions in case of a loss and the subsequent insurance claim.
- If possible, store valuable items in a secure location.
“AAA encourages gift givers and recipients to review their insurance coverage and possibly purchase additional coverage with a floater policy if necessary,” noted Atchley-Mayer. “Expensive items such as jewelry, artwork, and electronics have limited coverage under standard homeowners’ insurance policies.”
Flying With an Expensive Gift
“Losing your luggage is frustrating enough and when your bags contain expensive holiday gifts, it can ruin your entire trip. Check with your insurance company to see if lost luggage is covered by your homeowners or renters insurance policy,” added Atchley-Mayer. “Airlines have policies for reimbursing travelers for lost luggage.”
Other rules to keep in mind when flying with holiday gifts:
- Don’t wrap it – Wrapping paper may block security screeners from seeing what is inside your package, whether it’s in your carry-on OR your checked baggage. You will slow down the security process for yourself and others and the wrapping may need to be torn off.
- Don’t forget the 3-1-1 liquid rule – If you plan on giving perfume or aftershave, wine, liquor, jellies/jams, or lotions and they are in packages larger than 3 ounces they must go into your checked luggage. Liquids in the carry on must be in containers of 3 ounces or less and in a one-quart clear plastic zip top bag. Only one bag is permitted per person.
- Ship gifts in advance – You might be able to use some of your clothes for the trip to cushion gifts or fill dead space in your shipping box allowing you to fit the remainder of your clothes and personal items in a carry on. Shipping gifts in advance and eliminating a checked bag may save you money since you won’t have to pay checked baggage fees. Taking along only a carry-on leaves you worry-free about luggage getting lost or delayed.
- Order online – With a click of the mouse your wrapped gift will be waiting for you at your destination.
AAA Mid-Atlantic, serves nearly four million members in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and throughout Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia, and is on the Web at aaa.com/community.
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