Baubles, Blitzen and brussel sprouts on the brain? Us too, but let's make sure we're ahead of the game.
- December is the most profitable time of year for a burglar
- You can use clever tricks to make your home look busy
- Protecting your home and belongings from fires
The festive season is not only the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s an exceptionally prosperous time for burglars.
With expensive gifts on display, unmanned outdoor ornaments and many homeowners out visiting family and friends; homes are a potential treasure trove for thieves, with your precious valuables including the beautifully wrapped gifts you spent hours searching for (or mere minutes online – we’re not judging) as the ultimate jackpot.
We also know that the Christmas period is the best time to sit round the fire and create memories with the family. But having a fire on in the home can create a number of other risks to your home and belongings.
Now, you don't need to go full Kevin McAllister (if you haven’t seen Home Alone and therefore do not understand this reference…go and watch it now!), but there are a number of non-slap-stick measures you can take to protect your home from both intruders and fires. Our LV= home insurance team have come up with some useful tips for you.
1. Should I hide my presents?
Yes. For burglars, stumbling upon a home with a pile of presents in plain sight is quite literally a window of opportunity for them. So, let’s spoil their plans by keeping gifts out of view – it’ll stop curious kids and prying partners trying to figure out what you got them too!
2. Does posting online affect my home security?
It might, so keep your plans discreet – don’t tell everyone on Facebook and Twitter that you’re about to leave the country for two weeks, or that your home will be empty until the New Year. You might be able to trust your friends, but do you really know who else is reading?
3. How do I secure my home?
Security is key (excuse the pun), so if you’ve got a garage or a shed in the garden, make sure it’s securely locked so that burglars can’t lay their hands on tools, ladders or other items that could help them break into your home. A sturdy padlock is an effective deterrent, as are motion detector lights and CCTV cameras.
4. Is there a way to mark my belongings?
It may feel a bit 007, but you might consider buying an ultraviolet marker pen to personalise all your belongings with your postcode and house number. Marking your belongings may put burglars off, as it makes items harder to sell on. It can also help police investigate and prosecute criminals.
5. How can I stop people noticing my house is empty?
If you’re going to be away from home for a while, set up light timers to switch on at times you'd usually be in. You can do the same for radios and TVs, so it looks like someone’s regularly in. You may also want to leave the heating on low or drain your water system to avoid freezing pipes and condensation.
6. Who should I let into my home?
There are some people who you actually do want popping in when you’re away; ask friends, family or neighbours to check on your house every now and again. This way, they can collect your mail, feed the cats, open the curtains - and if they pick up on any suspicious behaviour, they can report it. Visitors will also help add to the pretence that someone is home.
7. Can I insure my Christmas presents?
Well, if your home contents insurance is with LV=, your level of cover over the festive period increases by 10% to protect all the extra stuff you've got at home – like Christmas presents, gadgets and decorations. LV= will even cover theft from outbuildings, but please think twice before storing gifts anywhere other than locked safely in your home!
8. How can I decorate my home safely?
- If you're buying a real Christmas tree, make sure you pick one that's fresh and place it straight into a water-holding tree stand – and don't forget to top up the water every day.
- If you’re opting for an artificial tree, make sure it's fire retardant, and keep all trees away from heaters and radiators.
- Always check your bulbs for any damage; the bulbs should be low LED lights that conform to BS EN 60598 standards. Connect lights safely to the mains and avoid long trailing leads.
- When you're deciding where you'd like the decorations to go, make sure you're not covering any burglar motion detectors or fire alarms.
9. How can I make sure my fire is safe?
We all know there’s nothing quite like sitting round the fire to get you in the Christmas spirit. But as inviting as the toasty flames might be, it’s important to keep in mind some safety precautions, especially for open fires or wood-burning stoves.
The wood you use for your fire needs to be seasoned (dried) before you burn it. Wood with moisture in it releases smoke and harmful particles when burned, which can damage your chimney and cause harm if inhaled. You can buy moisture meters to check the level of water in your wood, or better yet, buy ‘Ready to Burn’ fuel. Wood with a ‘Ready to Burn’ logo on it will be pre-dried and ready to go.
Make sure you never burn treated waste wood, for example old pieces of furniture, as these will emit toxins and pollutants when burned.
If you’re intending to use house coal for your fire, think about using approved solid fuels instead.
Don’t overload your fireplace or stove with wood or build fires too high – you can always add more wood later if needed.
Wood-burning stoves can be a great option as they produce much less smoke than an open fire. If you have a stove, it needs to be serviced annually. If you haven’t had it serviced but plan to use it at Christmas, make sure you book a service for it.
You should also aim to have your chimney swept at least twice a year, so make sure this has been done too.
Health and safety
When lighting your fire, avoid using liquids like petrol or paraffin. Always use firelighters or kindling. You should also never put paper or rubbish on your fire, as this can create floating embers that can blow away and cause a house fire.
If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, make sure you buy one. They’re easy to install and will alert you to dangerous fumes.
It’s also good practice to install a fireguard around your fire, especially if you have young kids or pets around.
Never leave your fire unattended. Make sure the fire is out before going to bed or leaving, and always wait for ashes to become cold before disposing of them.
Most of these tips are common sense, but should the worst happen this winter, you’ll want the comfort of knowing your home and belongings are properly covered.
So remember, LV= will increase your contents insurance by 10% for one month before and after a religious festival or special event, for purchases made for these occasions within the period of insurance. That way, if a burglar does get the better of you or if your fire-building skills aren't as good as you thought, at least you can rely on us to help put things right - so you can just concentrate on finishing off the mince pies.
Now, go and enjoy the holidays! Eat too many mince pies, buy too many presents and let your only concerns be where the tree should go or which festive film to watch first