Tips for a Happy, Healthy and Safe Holiday Season

Tips for a Happy, Healthy and Safe Holiday SeasonBy Richard A. McGrath, CIC, LIA

The holidays are here which means it’s time for spending more time in the kitchen, putting up festive decorations, and celebrating with loved ones. However, the holidays can also be a time filled with kitchen disasters, decorating fails and overindulgence. By making smart preparations beforehand, you can help keep both your family and home safe for the holidays.

Cooking Safety Tips

December is a popular month for holiday gatherings with family and friends. But when you’re entertaining guests, it can be difficult to focus on what’s going on in the kitchen. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), December is a peak month for home cooking fires, with Christmas Day and Christmas Eve being two of the peak days for an incident. Unattended cooking is the leading contributing factor of home fires, reports the NFPA.

If you are cooking for a holiday party, follow these helpful cooking safety tips from the NFPA:

  • Avoid consuming alcohol when you are cooking, especially when using the stove or stovetop.
  • Stay in the kitchen at all times when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen, even for a minute, be sure to turn off the stove.
  • Check on the food regularly whenever you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling it. Set a timer to remind yourself that you are cooking.
  • Remove items or decorations near the cooking area that can easily catch fire.
  • Designate the kitchen as a “kid-free zone,” or ask that kids stay at least three feet away from where food is being prepared or carried.

Also, be sure to check that all food is fully cooked before serving it. Even if you ordered from a caterer, you could still be found liable if one of your guests becomes sick after eating food in your home. As a general rule of thumb, if it looks spoiled or contaminated, throw it out.

Decorating Safety Tips

Nothing says the holidays are here like decorating around the house. However, it’s also important to carefully plan where your decorations will go, and not just for appearances’ sake. Almost all fires involving decorations happen because they are placed too close to a heat source, states the NFPA. Avoid placing decorations in the kitchen near the stovetop or oven. Additionally, the NFPA reports that two out of five home decoration fires are started by candles. Never leave lit candles unattended and keep all open flames away from decorations, trees, and other flammable household items. Consider using decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

Remember to take proper care of your Christmas tree and any seasonal plants. If you have a real tree, make sure to water it daily as a dried out tree can pose a real fire hazard to your home. One out of three Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems, reports the NFPA. Be sure to only use lights that have been tested for safety, such as products that are certified by UL, CSA or ETL. Keep in mind that LED lights tend to stay cooler, use less energy, and last longer. Also make note of whether lights can be used indoors or outdoors, and replace any strings with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Always turn off holiday lights before leaving your house or going to bed.

Most importantly, avoid placing decorations near windows and doors so as not to block an exit in the event of an emergency.

Party Hosting Tips

If you are serving alcohol at your holiday gathering, you could be found liable for any damages or injuries to a third party caused by an intoxicated party guest. It’s important that you promote safe alcohol consumption or else find yourself paying for more than just holiday bills: medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost time from work and wrongful death. Be a responsible party host and follow these tips:

  • Encourage guests to choose a designated driver.
  • Limit the guest list to people that you know and trust.
  • Be sure to offer non-alcoholic beverages and serve plenty of food throughout the night.
  • Take a break and plan activities that don’t involve drinking.
  • Stop serving alcohol before the end of the night, and stop serving guests who appear intoxicated.
  • Arrange for transportation or overnight accommodations for anyone who appears unable to get home safely.

Insurance Protection

In the event that disaster strikes this holiday season, do you have complete confidence in the protection provided by your insurance policies? Before you get swept up in the rush, it’s important to review your coverage with a trusted independent agent to ensure that you have protection for when you need it most. In the event your primary policies don’t provide enough coverage, investing in a personal umbrella policy can better protect you against the unexpected.

Following these tips can help to ensure that you and your loved ones enjoy a happy and safe holiday season. From everyone here at McGrath Insurance Group, I wish you and yours Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year!

Richard A. McGrath, CIC, LIA is President and CEO of McGrath Insurance Group of Sturbridge, Mass. He can be reached at 508-347-6850 or at

This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.