How to Keep Your Home Safe and Secure During the Holidays

With all of the decorations, shopping, baking, and festivities that come with the holiday season, it’s important to be safe while also having fun—especially with all the extra challenges this year.

On top of putting the health and wellbeing of your loved ones first, here are five tips to help you minimize risk while you deck the halls and join the chorus.

1. Keep travel plans offline

If you’re planning to travel during the holiday season, be sure to keep your travel plans off your social media networks. Never post where you’re going, when you’re leaving, or when you’ll be back.

This is prime information for a burglar because they’ll know when your house will be empty. Even if you have the highest level of security on your Facebook or Instagram accounts, posting this kind of information is never recommended.

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Travel safely during COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus pandemic surges across the US, healthcare professionals advise against holiday travel this year. But if you're going to follow Bing Crosby's promise to "be home for Christmas," be sure to take the right precautions.

1. Wear a mask.

2. Maintain physical distance of at least six feet.

3. Wash your hands often and carry hand sanitizer that's at least 60% alcohol for when you can't wash with water and soap.

4. Stick to outdoor activities or well-ventilated indoor spaces.

Get more tips in our full guide to traveling safely during the pandemic.

2. Notify a neighbor

If you decide to go out of town during the holidays, be sure to notify a trusted neighbor. Ask them to keep an eye on your house and report any suspicious activity.

You should also make arrangements to keep snow from piling up on your walks and driveway and be sure to halt mail and newspaper delivery while you’re gone. Let your neighbor know if you’ve got someone coming by to check on things or shovel so they’ll know if it’s a potential prowler or a helping hand hanging around your home.

Another way to make it less obvious that no one’s home is harnessing the power of home automation. Add a motion sensor light or use smart plugs and smart lightbulbs to control lights, TVs, and more from anywhere. And if you feel like giving yourself an early gift that keeps on giving, look into a monitored home security system before you hit the road.

3. Hide packages and gifts

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You probably want to keep gifts out of sight from children, but you also want to make sure gifts are hidden from a potential burglar as well. Putting pretty wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree looks nice, but it’s also an open invitation for a burglar. Try to keep your Christmas tree, with gifts underneath, away from windows or other places with a view. When you aren’t home, it’s easy to break through a window and grab all of your gifts.

And don't forget to take care of gifts you haven't received yet. Thieves like to strike when there's an Amazon Prime delivery or other package left unguarded on the porch. Consider adding a doorbell cam or other outdoor security camera to help deter porch pirates. Another smart move is to give delivery people special instructions about where to leave packages. If you're expecting lots of deliveries, consider renting out a package locker (Amazon Prime members have access for free) or investing in a secure drop box to keep on your porch.

4. Watch your Christmas lights

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire hazards increase during the holidays. Before you string lights on the house or the tree, be sure to inspect the strands for frayed cords or cracked lamps. To prevent an accidental fire, replace any broken lamps, and throw away strands with frayed cords.

If it’s time for new lights, look for cords that have been tested by an independent laboratory, like the Underwriters Laboratory. Be sure to check the packaging to see that the manufacturer’s name and information are clearly marked.

Also, be sure to turn holiday lights off when you leave or before tucking in for a long winter’s nap. Try using an outdoor timer or smart outlet to switch lights on and off. And gather the whole clan together to review how to use a fire extinguisher and make sure yours is accessible and unexpired.

5. Inspect the furnace and the chimney

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Heating equipment, like furnaces and fireplaces, can turn the holidays from delightful to devastating if they malfunction or fall into disrepair.

Add these items to your holiday prep list to keep your home safe from fire hazards:

  • Have a professional inspect your furnace.
  • Change out air filters, if needed.
  • Clean out air ducts and vents.
  • Hire a chimney sweep to make sure the fireplace is safe and ready to go.
  • Check batteries on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year, as long as you stay safe during them. Be sure to follow these five simple steps to make sure you and yours can sit back, relax, and fully enjoy the season.

Andrea Harvey
Written by
Andrea Harvey
Andréa is passionate about community advocacy. Before joining our team, she studied journalism at the University of Oregon and worked at local newspapers like Salt Lake City Weekly and the Ogden Standard-Examiner. As an Outreach Strategist, she helps SafeWise reach new communities nationwide with data-driven safety campaigns and educational resources.

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