The FINANCIAL -- By the time the turkeys, pumpkin pies and cranberries are devoured and the calendar flips from November to December, 75 percent of Americans will have already started checking items off their shopping lists, according to a new poll released on November 17 by Allstate. What many are not checking off, though, are simple steps to protect their homes – Allstate claims data shows many types of fire, theft and weather property claims increase during the holiday season.
The third annual Allstate Holiday Home Hazards poll revealed risky behaviors, such as leaving packages in the open, leaving doors unlocked, or falling asleep with the stove on, a candle lit or a fire still roaring. Despite 71 percent of adults acknowledging the increased risk of in-home incidents, just 37 percent take extra care to protect themselves. The poll also found many do not heed safety warnings while decorating the home – the dangers of which can be explored in a fun and safe way with Allstate's interactive online Holiday Decorator experience.
"Shopping season is in full swing, and it's easy to let holiday cheer cloud our better judgment when buying and handling our purchases," said Terri Dalenta, senior vice president of property products at Allstate. "Between gifts, decorations, big family meals, traveling and other activities, Americans can spend quite a bit of money during the holidays. Allstate's goal is to help customers and consumers protect what matters most and stay safe, happy and healthy while enjoying a hazard-free holiday season."
Presents of Mind
Despite 84 percent of adults planning to spend money on gifts this holiday season – including a quarter (27 percent) who say they expect to spend more than last year – many do not take the necessary precautions to keep their holiday purchases out of harm's way:
Two-thirds (67 percent) of adults admitted to having valuables delivered to their home while they're not there.
Six-in-10 (60 percent) have stored or hidden valuables in their car.
Eight percent have experienced theft of packages, 6 percent have experienced car break-ins and 4 percent have had their home broken into during the holidays.
One-third (33 percent) of adults will be shipping a gift this year, but only about half (52 percent) of those gift-givers will notify the recipient that a gift is en route.
Allstate suggests that you not let preventable mistakes in securing your presents cloud your holidays with a few simple tips:
When in plain view, gifts and valuables serve as an invitation to thieves. Hide purchases in your car trunk when shopping and don't display them in the window of your home. Put your valuables away before hosting people at your home.
When sending a package, ensure someone is aware of the gift's anticipated arrival and will be home at the time of delivery.
Chestnuts, Open Fires and Dangerous Décor
Nearly half of Americans (46 percent) will spend money on decorations this holiday season, with 21 percent of those individuals expecting to spend more money than last year. Many people, however, admit safety is not always top of mind when it comes to decking their halls:
More than half (53 percent) of adults admit they have plugged too many lights into one outlet.
Four-in-10 (40 percent) say they have slipped or fallen in a holiday-related activity, such as decorating.
Twenty-nine percent have left a real Christmas tree without water for more than three days, increasing the risk of fire.
More than a quarter of people (28 percent) have left the house and/or fallen asleep with candles burning. And about a quarter (24 percent) said they have done the same with a fire burning in the fireplace.
Of the people who own a fireplace, just over a quarter (28 percent of wood-fireplace owners and 26 percent of gas-fireplace owners) have cleaned or inspected their fireplaces in the past year.
Using Allstate's Holiday Decorator to virtually hang your lights, garland and mistletoe is an interactive way to learn about keeping your home safe this season. Additionally, Allstate recommends a few easy ways to keep your holidays on track:
Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually before the holidays begin to ensure it's safe for use.
Never leave burning candles or fireplaces unattended, and keep trees or other flammable items away from fire.
Check holiday lights, throwing away any that are broken, and don't overload the outlets. Only lights and extension cords specified for outdoor use should be used outside.
Table-stakes for "Tablescapes"
Cooking and entertaining are staples of the holiday season, and Americans are willing to splurge to create the perfect holiday spread – the poll revealed the most important consideration while shopping for that crowd-pleasing dinner is the quality of the ingredients. But as hungry families around the country wait for holiday hams to roast, 87 percent of cooks say they're multitasking – which can prove to be a recipe for disaster:
More than half (58 percent) listen to music while cooking.
Forty-three percent cook multiple dishes at the same time.
About the same number (42 percent) watch TV or a movie while cooking.
Almost a third (32 percent) of people have left the house or fallen asleep while the stove was on.
Nine percent said a cooking mishap has previously resulted in smoke or fire.
Hosting the holidays can be stressful, but hosting hazards could be a game-ender. Allstate provides ways to be proactive this season:
Before the holidays, install new batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure that family members can locate and operate fire extinguishers.
Be careful in the kitchen. Keep a close watch on cooking food and never leave the stove unattended for too long.
Don't do too much while cooking. Try to focus on one thing at a time, and enlist help if you need to take on multiple tasks.
One of the priciest purchases for many this season will be holiday travel. Sixty percent of Americans plan to spend at least one night away from home this year, with four-in-10 (41 percent) travelers planning to spend more on travel than last year. The poll revealed some risky behaviors that could contribute to home losses while away:
Half of Americans have left a door unlocked for a friend or family member. About the same amount (52 percent) have hidden a key for a friend or family member.
More than a third (35 percent) of adults say they have posted about travel plans on social media, including 58 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34.
Less than a quarter (23 percent) frequently set a timer for lights in their houses while traveling.
Only 17 percent frequently shut off the water in their homes to prevent leaks or floods, and just 16 percent frequently leave a faucet dripping to prevent freezing pipes while traveling.
Allstate recommends taking extra precautions before you leave if you're enjoying the holidays away from home to help guard against these hazards:
Whether it's "check-ins" using geo-location services, travel plan updates, or even photos uploaded while at a holiday party, people may be unknowingly giving today's "digital thieves" greater insight into the contents of your car or home, and the times when you're away from them.
If kitchen or bathroom pipes are located near exterior walls, leave the cabinet doors open to help circulate warmer air around the pipes.
In order to prevent water from freezing and increasing pressure on pipes, leave taps slowly dripping if extremely cold weather is anticipated during travel.
During heavy snowfall, hire a professional to keep your home's roof and gutters clear.
Make sure your attic is properly ventilated – the colder the attic, the less melting and refreezing on your roof.
"While some hazards are hard to predict, we often see jumps in certain claims during the holiday season," Allstate agency owner Frank Torres said. "Part of my job as a trusted advisor to Allstate customers is to help them protect against avoidable hazards, and during the holidays just a few simple steps can make a world of difference in keeping your home safe from harm."