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Auto Club: Protect Your Property This Holiday Season

How To Prevent House Fires And Home Burglaries

Insurance & Consumer Tips
Christmas Tree at Home by Laura LaRose photos/wolfsavard
Credit: Laura LaRose

B-roll of Christmas safety tips: 

Credit: Auto Club of Southern California

As families spend more time at home and decorate earlier this holiday season due to COVID-19, the Automobile Club of Southern California reminds residents to protect their homes and themselves from holiday dangers like fires and break-ins.

Roughly three-quarters of Christmas tree fires occur in December or January, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).Last December in Hemet, a father and three of his young children died when an electrical malfunction sparked their Christmas tree causing a fire and forcing evacuation of 40 others in the apartment complex due to the flames, according to the Hemet Fire Dept.

Between 2013 and 2017, the latest figures available, fire departments across the country responded to an average of 160 house fires each year that started with Christmas trees, according to NFPA statistics. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in property damage annually.

As families spend more time at home and decorate earlier this holiday season due to COVID-19, the Auto Club reminds residents to protect their homes and themselves from holiday dangers like fires and break-ins.

“The holidays are about joy and happiness so it’s important to assess your home inside and out to determine if holiday decorations are fresh, work properly and will not potentially contribute to a fire that results in the loss of life or property,” said Claudia Rodriguez, vice president of insurance claims for the Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club. “Also, lock your home when you leave, even if you’re just making a quick trip to the grocery store for eggnog and snacks.”

Auto Club tips to reduce likelihood of fire:

Christmas Trees and Menorahs

  • Make sure your holiday tree is fresh and green when you buy it. Run a closed hand over the branches and make sure the needles are intact. Water daily as dry trees are a fire hazard.
  • Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
  • Use battery-operated candles, not wax candles, in holiday decorations. Candles start almost half of home decoration fires.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Do not let children play with wiring or lights and teach kids about fire safety.
  • For Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, Dec. 10-18, place the Menorah on a firm and non-flammable surface.
  • Keep the Menorah and matches away from children and pets.
  • Never leave a lit Menorah or other candles unattended.
  • Turn off, unplug and blow out all decorations before going to sleep or leaving home.

Exterior Decorations and Safety:

  • Outside the home, inspect all outdoor lights and decorations for damage.  Do not use if lights are damaged or wires are frayed.
  • Do not block the front door entrance or patio doors with decorations. Keep fresh garlands, which will dry out and could be a fire danger, away from the around the door frame.
  • Do not store firewood against the home or other structures. Stack firewood at least 30 feet away from your house.
  • Make sure your home is accessible to emergency vehicles. Mark driveway entrances and post your house address so it can be easily seen.

More Fire Safety Tips:

  • Smoke alarms are a key part of home fire safety.  Make sure to have smoke alarms in bedrooms as well as main living areas of the house.
  • Remain in the kitchen while holiday cooking or baking. Fires in the kitchen occur frequently during the holidays.

Home Security

Home burglaries spike during the weeks leading up to the holidays, when thieves are tempted by homes full of gifts. A homeowner loses an average of $2,416 in possessions and damages in a home burglary, according to U.S. Dept. of Justice statistics.

Holiday home break-ins are easily preventable by locking all doors and windows. But according to home security surveys, 64 percent of homeowners and renters don’t lock their doors and windows before leaving home. Additional devices like window locks and sliding door rods block burglary attempts. Pet door locks also block entry via small pet entrances.

Auto Club tips to prevent home burglaries:

  • Make sure holiday gifts, expensive electronics and other valuables are not visible from outside your windows.
  • Lock all doors and windows before you leave to shop or run errands, including your garage door and side doors.
  • If possible, install a monitored alarm system in your home with visible signs. You may be eligible for a discount on your insurance premium after the system is installed.
  • Video cameras, driveway motion detectors and smart home doorbells can be theft deterrents.
  • Make sure your dog or pet door is locked and cannot be used by a thief to enter your home.

Home Insurance tips:

  • Make sure your home insurance is up to date and provides adequate coverage if you own luxury goods, jewelry and electronics. 
  • Check to see if you need an additional rider or floater insurance policy for those items from the Auto Club or other insurance representatives.
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.