11 Holiday Home Safety Tips for a Secure and Festive Season [+ Free Safety Checklist]

Oct 24
smiling homeowner putting up a lit holiday wreath in their home

The holidays can be one of the busiest times for home emergencies, from home fires to holiday decorating blunders. The National Fire Protection Association reveals that over a quarter of home fires occur during December, January, and February, suggesting that the holidays are prone to various home safety threats. 

In this guide, we’ll share 11 holiday home safety tips to help you prevent small issues from becoming big problems while celebrating the holiday season.

1. Minimize fire risk

During the holiday season, it's common to have lit candle lights decorating our spaces and elaborate meals and fixtures in place. However, these activities, electrical outlets, and flammable items increase the risk of home fires if not handled with care.

Possible risk factors:

  • Overloaded electrical outlets – Plugging in too many devices or electronic decorations into a single outlet can lead to overheating of outlets, wires, and devices and potentially cause a fire.

  • Flammable decorations near open flames – Holiday decorations, such as curtains, dried foliage, or paper decorations, can catch fire easily if they are too close to open flames like candles or fireplaces.

  • Clogged cooking vents – When you cook, especially when frying or sautéing, grease and cooking oils are released into the air as tiny particles. Over time, these particles can accumulate in the exhaust system, including the vents, ducts, and filters. This buildup is highly flammable.

Actions to take:

  • Avoid overloading outlets by spreading out your device usage and utilizing surge protectors when necessary. Double-check the manufacturer’s electric specifications for your devices and the maximum electrical output of your outlets. Most electrical outlets in homes have a maximum 15 or 20 amperage load.

  • Pay attention to where you place decorations, ensuring they’re a safe distance from any flames or heat sources. Candles should be placed in stable holders on nonflammable surfaces, away from curtains, tablecloths, and other combustible materials.

  • Ensure your fire extinguisher is working by inspecting the pressure gauge which is typically  next to the handle or lever. Confirm that the pressure needle is in the green zone, meaning the extinguisher is ready for use. If it’s in the red zone, you need  to service or replace it.

  • Clean your cooking vents, exhaust fans, ducts, and filters every 3 to 6 months for light cooking and 1 to 3 months for heavier cooking. Ensure that all cooking appliances are off. Use dishwashing liquid or a baking soda and vinegar solution with warm water to wipe off grease. 

2. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are the pivotal piece in your home's safety infrastructure for fire prevention and carbon monoxide leaks. 

Possible risk factors:

  • Delayed response to fire or carbon monoxide threats – These discrete devices will alert you in life-threatening situations, often providing the critical seconds you need to escape a fire or detect deadly carbon monoxide gas. Despite their life-saving potential, these detectors can only fulfill their duty if they are working properly.

Actions to take:

  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors using the dedicated test button. If you can’t find a test button for your detectors, contact your detector’s manufacturer to learn how to test it.

  • Changing batteries at the start of the winter season and then again halfway through can help ensure they remain operational yearlong. Most detectors utilize 9-volt, AA, or AAA batteries. You can figure out what batteries you need by opening the battery compartment and checking for markings, such as “9V,” “AA,” or “AAA.”

  • If your smoke or carbon monoxide detectors are more than 10 years old, replace them with newer models. Modern detectors often come with improved features and better sensitivity, providing added protection during winter when risks are higher.

3. Clean your fireplace and chimney

fireplace with crackling fire

While fireplaces can elevate the holiday experience, they are not effortless amenities to the home, as they require regular maintenance and inspection for safety. An annual inspection can help detect structural issues that need repair, preventing further damage to the chimney and your home.

Possible risk factors:

  • Chimney fires – The accumulation of creosote (flammable byproduct of burnt organic material like wood) and other debris in the chimney can lead to chimney fires. These fires can spread downwards into the home in a matter of seconds.

  • Spark fires – Burning wood can emit sparks that can cause fires in the contact of fabrics, decorations, and other materials.

  • Structural damage – Over time, chimneys can deteriorate due to weather, water infiltration, and the effects of combustion gases. 

Actions to take:

  • Newly formed creosote, which tend to be light to dark brown, can be removed by  liquid creosote remover and a drop cloth. Attach the cloth to an extension rod for better reach to remove creosote along the flue liner, the heat-resistant pipe in the chimney interior. Wear goggles or a dust mask to shield against falling creosote particles.

  • For older creosote buildup, often a tar-like shade, contact a professional chimney sweep to remove with a mechanical chimney brush. This glazed buildup cannot be removed with any over the shelf chemical cleaners or tools.

  • Install a spark guard or screen to prevent spark fires. These are made of heat-resistant materials and provide a barrier to keep sparks and embers contained. When installing, it should be placed in front of the fireplace opening, ensuring that it covers the entire width and height of the opening.

4. Monitor space heaters and other heat systems

During the winter, use space heaters, and radiators with caution. Otherwise, they pose a risk of fires and other hazards. Keep vents and radiators clear to prevent heat buildup that could cause fires or damage your heating system. Also, keep items like curtains, furniture, or holiday decorations at a safe distance from these heat sources to avoid the start and rapid spread of flames.

Possible risk factors:

  • Overheating due to blocked vents or objects placed too close – Heat sources like radiators and vents need proper ventilation to operate efficiently. Blocked vents or objects placed too close can lead to overheating, potentially causing fires or damage to your heating system.

  • Space heaters left on unattended – A momentary malfunction or accidental contact with flammable materials can result in a fire.

  • Lack of regular maintenance for heating systems – Heating systems that use gas or oil will produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion. Furnaces especially can accumulate debris, which increases the risk of fire ignition. 

Actions to take:

  • Keep any items that can catch fire at a distance from heat sources, and ensure proper ventilation to prevent overheating. Maintain at least three feet of space around radiators and space heaters, and avoid placing fabrics on them.

  • When using space heaters, adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. This involves ensuring they are placed on level surfaces and never left unattended. If you intend to leave the room or go to sleep, remember to switch off the space heater to minimize the potential for any mishaps or accidents.

  • Proactively schedule maintenance for your heating systems. Have a professional inspect, clean, and fix any problems so your heating system works efficiently and safely during winter.

5. Inspect lights, wiring, and outlets

homeowner hanging up string lights inside home

Decorative lighting is a hallmark of the holiday season, but faulty wiring and damaged lights can lead to electrical fires. Many families reuse holiday lighting fixtures every year, but wear and tear along the wiring can cause electrical sparks. Not all lights are multipurpose, and some for outside usage may not meet indoor safety standards. Updating your lighting can also help you save energy during the winter.

Possible risk factors:

  • Frayed or damaged wiring – Holiday lights are susceptible to damage from storage, handling, or exposure to the elements. Frayed or damaged wiring can create electrical sparks, potentially leading to fires or electrical shocks. Additionally, rodents can chew on any loose and unprotected wiring.

  • Overloading outlets with too many decorations – Plugging too many decorations into a single outlet or daisy-chaining multiple extension cords can overload the circuit and increase the risk of overheating, electrical fires, or tripped circuit breakers.

  • Using outdoor lights inside and inside lights outside – Lights designed for outdoor use are constructed to withstand weather conditions, while indoor lights are not. Using lights in the wrong setting can compromise their safety and performance.


Actions to take:

  • Before hanging your holiday lights, carefully examine them for frayed wires. Make sure the bulbs are intact. Discard damaged lights and replace them with new, safe ones.

  • Keep your outdoor lighting wiring off the ground or encased in a conduit to prevent rodents from chewing on them.

  • Use extension cords for the intended purpose (indoor or outdoor use), and follow the manufacturer's guidelines for their maximum load capacity. If necessary, distribute your holiday decorations across multiple outlets to prevent overloading.

  • Replace lights when needed. Incandescent lights usually have a shorter life span than LED lights and endure 3-4 holiday seasons on average. LED lights last much longer, with many reaching 10 years or more. Outdoor lights are on a case-by-case basis, as they are exposed to the elements and may wear and tear depending on the harshness of the weather.

6. Regularly water your Christmas tree

The Christmas tree is the highlight of many holiday festivities. Whether you opt for an aromatic evergreen or an artificial substitute, you’ll want to properly prepare and look after your tree throughout the holiday season. Dry trees are a glaring fire hazard, especially when decorated with multiple light fixtures.

Possible risk factors:

  • Dry or improperly watered tree – Natural Christmas trees have a limited life span and can dry out over time, particularly when exposed to indoor heating. A dry tree is highly flammable.

  • Decorations near the tree that generate heat – Some holiday decorations, such as candles especially, can generate heat. Placing them too close to the tree increases the risk of the tree drying out and potentially catching fire.

  • Faulty tree lights – Defective or damaged tree lights can spark electrical fires.

Actions to take:

  • If you opt for a natural tree, ensure it remains properly hydrated throughout the holiday season. Place freshly cut trees in a water-filled stand, and check the water level daily. A well-hydrated tree is less likely to dry out and become a fire risk.

  • Consider using LED lights, which emit less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs. This reduces the risk of the lights drying out the tree and minimizes the chance of fire.

  • To further reduce the risk of overheating, turn off the tree lights when you leave the room or go to bed. 

7. Safely secure decorations

During the holiday season, many people adorn their homes with festive decorations. However, decorations can fall and potentially cause injuries or damage to your home. Loose cords are common tripping hazards, and hanging ornaments can cause serious injuries if you don’t secure them properly.

Possible risk factors:

  • Decorations falling and causing injuries – Holiday decorations vary widely in size and weight, from delicate ornaments to larger wreaths and garlands. If not properly secured, these decorations may fall unexpectedly.

  • Tripping hazards from loose cords or decorations – Lights and other electrical decorations often involve cords and cables that can become loose or entangled. These loose cords and decorations can create tripping hazards in your home.

Actions to take:

  • Ensure all decorations are securely fastened and will not easily come loose. Use appropriate hooks, clips, or hangers for different types of decorations. Wire hooks are sturdy enough for most hanging ornaments like wreaths. A fishing line has the strength to hold multiple ornaments at once.

  • Use cable clips, tape, or cord covers to secure cords and prevent them from creating tripping hazards. You can also use cord channels – plastic or rubber covers that conceal and protect cords. They come with adhesive for easy installation.

8. Remove child and pet hazards

family baking holiday cookies inside the kitchen

Families and their children look forward to holiday festivities, and pets get to join in on the fun when everyone is excited. However, holiday decor poses a threat to children and pets, and both tend to place all kinds of unsafe objects into their mouths. 

Possible risk factors:

  • Swallowing small ornaments – Small ornaments, tinsel, and other decorative items can be tempting for children and pets to pick up and put in their mouths. Swallowing these items can lead to choking hazards or digestive issues.

  • Tipping over decorations or trees – Children and pets may inadvertently knock over decorations, Christmas trees, or fragile ornaments, potentially causing injuries or damage to themselves or your home.

  • Access to toxic plants like poinsettias – Some popular holiday plants, including poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly, can be toxic if ingested. These plants may cause symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to more severe health issues.

Actions to take:

  • When decorating your home, opt for decorations that are less likely to shatter and don’t have small, easily digestible parts. Look for nontoxic and child-safe materials. Wooden and plastic decorations can endure many accidental falls.

  • To prevent your tree from toppling over, use a sturdy tree stand and consider anchoring the tree to a wall or ceiling for added stability. Keep fragile ornaments and decorations higher up on the tree, out of reach of small hands and paws.

  • If you have plants like poinsettias in your home, place them where children and pets can’t access them.

9. Practice kitchen safety

During the holidays, the kitchen is often the center of celebrations. Cooks should be aware of their surroundings, and visitors and family members should avoid crowding kitchens for their own safety. 

Possible risk factors:

  • Grease fires from deep frying – When oil reaches its smoke point and begins to break down, it can release flammable vapors into the air. These vapors can catch fire if they come into contact with an open flame, such as the burner on a stove or even a spark from electrical equipment.

  • Burns from hot pots and pans – Heat quickly transfers from hot cookware onto any contact surface. Expect a burn at just one slight touch.

  • Slips and falls – Wet floors from sink and stove top spills can cause injury and start a chain of accidents like falling and crashing kitchen objects, flames, and more. 

  • Gas leaks – If you have a gas cooktop, it’s important to inspect for gas leaks. Gas leaks release carbon monoxide and are a fire and explosion hazard.

Actions to take:

  • Use an outdoor fryer on a stable, flat surface, and ensure the food you plan to deep fry is completely thawed and dry before immersing it in hot oil. Keep the fryer away from structures, and don’t leave it unattended.

  • When working with hot cookware, use oven mitts and pot holders to protect your hands from burns. Turn pot handles inward on the stove to help prevent accidental tipping.

  • Keep the kitchen floor dry and promptly clean any liquid spills. Place slip-resistant mats and rugs near the sink or stove where spills are likely. Be sure not to overcrowd the kitchen, as accidental bumps can also lead to dangerous falls.

  • Apply a mixture of soapy water to the gas connections and hoses of your stove. If you see bubbles forming, it indicates a gas leak. In such cases, turn off the gas supply and contact a professional for repairs.

10. Make anti-burglary upgrades

While the holiday season is a time of rest and celebration, it is also a prime time for burglars to take advantage of festive distractions. The holiday season often sees a rise in burglary rates as many homes contain valuable gifts and people are away at parties, gatherings, or vacations. Unsecured and inviting homes expectant of guests make an ideal burglary and theft target.

Possible risk factors:

  • Increased burglaries – Many families travel for the holidays, leaving their homes vacant. Others who host holiday events may also become less guarded due to festivities. Valuable gifts are a prize for burglars, and the holidays are filled with them.

  • Package theft – Online shopping during the holidays entails packages with items of value. Package thieves take this opportunity to ramp up their processes.

  • Inside visibility of homes – Homes are even more lit during the holidays, causing better outside visibility of a home’s interior. This gives burglars a clear view of valuables and an incentive to target a home.

Actions to take:

  • Implement a home security system of alarms, cameras, motion sensors, automatic locks, and detectors. Ensure your system is professionally installed and monitored, providing 24/7 protection.

  • Strengthen entry points by upgrading locks and deadbolts and by reinforcing doors and windows. Consider smart locks that allow you to remotely monitor and control access.

  • To deter burglars, automatically set a timer for your lights to activate to convey the image of an occupied home. 

11. Clear paths and walkways

Holiday seasons are busy and produce a clutter of gifts, wrappings, decorations, and more. Tripping hazards increase on obstructed walkways, and guests may have potential accessibility issues, especially those in wheelchairs.

Possible risk factors:

  • Slips and falls – Walkways become treacherous due to snow and ice accumulation, and slippery surfaces are common causes of injuries.

  • Obstructed pathways – Holiday decorations, gifts, and seasonal items can obstruct pathways and create tripping hazards, especially in high-traffic areas of your home.

  • Accessibility concerns – Some of your guests, including those with mobility challenges or who use wheelchairs or walkers, may face difficulties navigating through cluttered or narrow walkways.

Actions to take:

  • In regions with winter weather, promptly clear snow and ice from walkways and driveways. Use salt or sand to reduce slipperiness, ensuring safe passage for guests.

  • While holiday decorations add to the festive charm, be mindful of their placement. Ensure they don't block walkways or create tripping hazards. Secure decorations to prevent them from falling into paths.

  • If you have guests with mobility challenges, consider creating accessible pathways, ensuring that entrances, doorways, and hallways are wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers.

The holidays are a fun and festive time of rest and celebration. However, risks and hazards become even more pronounced in busy and eventful times. Find out how to bolster the safety of your home with personalized maintenance checklists for your property by downloading our Hippo Home app.

Download our holiday home safety tips checklist

We’ve put together a PDF checklist for you to utilize so that you can address all aspects of protecting your home during the festive season. Download our checklist to prepare for this upcoming season and to establish peace of mind for your home and family.

mockup of a holiday home safety tips checklist on a desk adorned with festive decor

download holiday home safety tips checklist


YourHaus, Inc. ("Hippo Home") is an affiliate of Hippo Insurance Services. Services (including all repair or maintenance services) provided to customers through affiliated and unaffiliated third-party contractors. Your use of Hippo Home is subject to Hippo Home's terms and conditions and privacy policies. Use of unaffiliated third-party vendors is subject to the terms of service provided by such third party. Hippo Insurance Services is not responsible for your use/non-use of Hippo Home or any service vendor. @ YourHaus, Inc. 2023

Hippo Insurance Services ("Hippo") is a general agent for affiliated and non-affiliated insurance companies. Hippo is licensed as a property casualty insurance agency in all states in which products are offered. Availability and qualification for coverage, terms, rates, and discounts may vary by jurisdiction. We do not in any way imply that the materials on the site or products are available in jurisdictions in which we are not licensed to do business or that we are soliciting business in any such jurisdiction. Coverage under your insurance policy is subject to the terms and conditions of that policy. Coverage and coverage amounts selected are the decision of the buyer.

This guidance and advice is not error-proof and not applicable to every home. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property and neither Hippo nor Hippo Home is responsible for any damages that occur as a result of any advice or guidance.

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