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Have a holly-jolly holiday season with these 10 expert safety tips

For many people, Christmastime means buying presents, hanging stockings and preparing meals for that special December holiday. However, your wondrous winter wonderland can quickly turn into a Christmas catastrophe without the proper safety precautions. Read on for some top safety tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this year.

1. Place your Christmas tree at least three feet away from any flames.

While it might make for a nice picture, placing the tree in front of your fireplace poses a serious fire hazard. Be mindful of holiday candles and other such fire hazards while preparing your holiday photo backdrop this year. Remember to turn off your Christmas tree’s lights before going to bed at night.

2. Water your tree daily.

After days of being inside, Christmas trees tend to become dry and brittle. A dry tree can quickly go up in flames when not properly cared for. By regularly adding water to your tree stand, you can increase the amount of water absorption to your tree and prevent it from drying out.

3. Schedule packages to arrive when you will be home.

Every year, “porch pirates” watch homes and apartment complexes for packages to steal. With the recent rise of online shopping, this problem has become even more prevalent. To avoid having your family’s Christmas gifts stolen right from under your nose, make sure you are home to accept the package directly from the delivery driver. To further protect yourself from risk, install a doorbell camera to deter possible thieves and intruders.

4. Sweep the chimney.

You might be planning to crank up the fireplace on Christmas Day for a cozy atmosphere while your family is opening presents. Before you do, make sure to thoroughly clean your chimney and inspect it for loose bricks or debris. Failing to do so increases your risk of chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

5. Skip the plants.

Some popular holiday plants such as mistletoe and holly berries are poisonous. If you have small children or animals in the house, consider using a plastic alternative or skipping the plants altogether. Safe holiday plants include Christmas cactus, red roses and white orchids.

6. Give safely.

While choosing a present for a child, be mindful of the age rating. These ratings are created with safety in mind, not IQ level, and should not be disregarded regardless of how advanced the child might be. For children under three, do not give presents that have small parts as they could pose a choking hazard. Any riding toy such as a scooter or a bike should be accompanied with an appropriately sized helmet and protective padding.

7. Avoid overloading outlets.

Overloaded outlets are a common cause of holiday fires. Only plug one appliance into an outlet at a time and remember to remain in the room while operating kitchen gadgets.

8. Extinguish all candles before going to bed.

According to the NFPA, half of all home fire deaths occur between 11:00pm and 7:00am. Make sure to blow out all candles before you turn in for the night. To further reduce the risk, replace your standard candles with battery-powered alternatives.

9. Don’t post about holiday travels.

Never broadcast to the world that you plan to be out of the house for an extended period. While you may feel safe telling your friends and family about your holiday plans, it is too easy for thieves to gain access to that information instead. If you do decide to post about your travel plans, use the appropriate privacy settings on your social media to ensure you are only sharing your location with people you trust.

10. Check your cords.

Look for wires that are frayed or broken. If you find a string of lights that appears to be damaged, dispose of them immediately. Exposing such cords to flammable material such as a Christmas tree could start a fire. Christmas is a magical time, full of good cheer, good food and better friends. By following these safety tips, you can keep your holiday season merry and bright. To further protect yourself against porch pirates and home fire damage, r each out to an independent agent to ensure that your policy adequately covers such holiday hazards.