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With the holiday season right around the corner, it’s almost time to unpack the festive decorations. However, homeowners should be aware that holiday decoration fires cost an average of over $19 million in property damage annually. Candles, holiday lights, and overloaded outlets have the potential to start a devastating fire. The resulting injuries and accidents not only put a damper on festivities, but they can also be very costly.

Fortunately, homeowner’s insurance typically covers holiday decorations and disasters, especially if you’re decorating on a budget. Policyholders are advised to review their coverage before the holidays to ensure they have adequate protection.

Fires Involving Christmas Trees and Lights

A homeowners insurance policy covers fire in and around your home, including a Christmas tree fire.

Data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates Christmas tree fires aren’t common, but they can be deadly.

Between 2014 and 2018, U.S. firefighters responded to an average of 160 home fires a year that started with Christmas trees, the NFPA says. These blazes caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries and $10 million in property damage each year.

During the 2014 to 2018 timeframe, 45% of home Christmas tree fires involved electrical or lighting equipment, according to the NFPA.

Kitchen Fires

Your home insurance policy will cover kitchen fires, which is a good thing because there are a lot of them during the holidays.

Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are two of the most festive days of the year. They’re also among the top five days for home cooking fires, according to a 2020 report by the NFPA. On Christmas Day that year, U.S. fire departments received reports of 740 home cooking fires. On Christmas Eve, the total was 650. In 2018, the daily average for home cooking fires was 470.

Sadly, these fires can do more than ruin a turkey or ham. From 2014 to 2018, home cooking fires led to an average of 550 deaths per year, along with 4,820 injuries and $1.2 billion in property damage, the NFPA says.

Accidents Involving Holiday Guests

Home-related accidents can definitely put a damper on the holiday spirit. Your Uncle Al may break his arm when he slips and falls on your ice-covered front steps as he’s arriving for Christmas Eve dinner.

Your homeowner’s insurance includes coverage for injuries to guests. If it’s a small injury, you may want to tap your real estate insurance policy’s medical payments coverage. Claims under this coverage can be made quickly because the insurer won’t need to determine who’s at fault. But medical payments coverage limits can be low, such as $1,000.

For more expensive guest injuries, homeowners policies provide at least $100,000 in personal liability coverage. You can bump up this liability limit and/or add umbrella insurance for extra coverage. If you’re sued by a guest, liability coverage also pays for your legal defense.

Some homeowner’s insurance policies provide liquor liability coverage (But don’t assume yours does. Contact your home insurance agent to confirm; if your policy won’t cover you as a host for liquor liability, you may be able to add a “host liquor” endorsement and ensure you have coverage.

Safety Tips

Here are some ways to keep your home from becoming a holiday danger zone:

  • Clear snow and ice from walkways, driveways and stairs before guests arrive.
  • Make sure exterior lights are working.
  • Apply double-sided tape or use no-slip mats to make sure area rugs are secure and don’t turn into trip-and-fall hazards.
  • Remove clutter like toys, laundry and wrapping paper to decrease the odds of a guest slipping or tripping.
  • Clean up spills as soon as possible so that a guest doesn’t slip on a slick floor.

Most importantly, don’t allow a visitor who’s visibly intoxicated to get behind the wheel of their car. If you let that visitor drive away, you could be held responsible for a car accident that’s their fault.