Celebrate, But Don’t Forget to Stay Safe This Holiday Season

This is the time of year for cheer and celebrations, as holiday decorating, shopping, and parties fill the calendar. While you’re enjoying the holidays, the Insurance Council of Texas urges all Texans to remember to keep yourself, your property, and your valuables safe.

Winter Weather Conditions

Texas weather changes fast. Texans need to stay prepared for cold weather and the adverse conditions that may arise quickly.  Every year, house fires send firefighters into normally quiet neighborhoods and icy roads and bridges result in multi-car collisions.

During freezing temperatures, Texas motorists are urged to slow down and use caution especially on or near bridges and overpasses. Any unnecessary travel when roadways are icy is discouraged. The Texas Department of Transportation offers roadway conditions on its toll-free number at 1-800-452-9292.

Fire Safety

The number of house fires skyrocket during the winter months, as many homeowners use their fireplaces for the first time since the previous season. Before starting a fire, homeowners should inspect their chimney to make sure its vent is open and metal grates are nearby to contain any fire or sparks inside the fireplace.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), www.nsc.org, thousands of deaths are caused by fires, burns and other fire-related injuries every year. 12% of home candle fires occur in December, the National Fire Protection Association reports. Increased use of candles and fireplaces, combined with an increase in the amount of combustible, seasonal decorations present in many homes means more risk for fire.

  • Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle

  • Keep candles out of reach of children

  • Make sure candles are on stable surfaces

  • Don't burn candles near trees, curtains or any other flammable items

  • Don't burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace

  • Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year

  • Christmas trees and candles are blamed for a number of house fires during the holiday season. Christmas trees should be well-water and far away from any flames.

Natural (real) Christmas trees

  • Most of the tree fires happen after Christmas, after a cut tree has dried out, and often start overnight when trees are left lit

  • Never place any tree near a heat source such as a fireplace, furnace or space heater.

  • Unplug lights when leaving the house or going to sleep. Be especially careful if using lights that heat up — and don’t put them near heat sources, curtains or other flammable materials.

Christmas Tree Fire Safety Tips Video

No Drinking and Driving

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, approximately 1,000 people in Texas are killed in alcohol-related crashes every year. The Department of Transportation has set up a resource for anyone who may have had too much to drink and need an alternative way to get home. You can check out this resource at www.SoberRides.org. A useful reminder for holiday safety can also be found here on this “12 Days of Safety” poster, 12DAYS.

TxDOT Reports One in Four Holiday Crash Fatalities Involve Drunk Drivers

Protect Your Valuables

Thieves don’t take the holidays off. If you’re out shopping, take valuables such as purses and cell phones with you instead of leaving them inside your vehicle. Electronics or recently purchased gifts should be placed in the vehicle’s trunk or hidden out of sight. A simple crime prevention reminder is to Lock your car, Take your keys and Hide your possessions this month. For over 10 years the Insurance Council of Texas has donated thousands of the Lock, Take and Hide signs to police departments all over Texas. Police departments work with local businesses to use the signs as not only a helpful reminder to shoppers, but as a warning to potential auto burglars to avoid the area.

Companies are forecasting record deliveries this year with more than one billion packages making their way to consumers from Black Friday through the Christmas season. Many of those deliveries will be dropped off at the front door and not secured until the residents arrive home. If you’re having packages delivered to your home, take steps to avoid becoming a victim of package theft. If possible, have your packages delivered to a location where they can be received in person, such as your office, or a neighbor’s or relative’s house. If the online retailer provides the option, choose a specific delivery time. Some online stores allow you to have your package delivered to a local store for pick-up.

You also can ask the shipper to require a signature confirmation of delivery in order to prevent packages being left when no one is home to sign for them.

Cybercrime

Scammers and criminals are out in full force during the holidays.

Practice safe holiday online shopping:

  • Use secure networks when doing online shopping.

  • Don’t use your credit card or banking website when using open wi-fi and unsecure networks. Attackers can set up their own network near hotspots and you may end up connected to it. If you do then the attacker can see everything you do and even direct your computer to sites you may not want to go. 2 points: 1.only access your bank account and use your credit card on a computer that you know is on a secure network, 2. when you surf at a coffee shop or other wi-fi hotspot, make sure your anti-virus software and firewall are up to date and running.

  • Ask the shop where you are using wi-fi what the name of their network is so you don’t log into a fake one.

  • Trust the site that you are making purchases from. When entering your credit card information there should be a closed lock in the address bar and there should be an ‘s’ after ‘http’ in the address bar. The ‘s’ is for secure.

Watch out for Rudolph!

November and December are months with a high incidence rate of auto/deer collisions. If you find yourself driving the winding and many, many roads of Texas this month, keep these tips in mind for a safe trip:

  • Buckle up! Not only is it the law in Texas, it’ll make sure you’re safe in the event that you do encounter a deer on the road.

  • Deer are more likely to be active between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and midnight. Be extra alert if you’re driving during these times.

  • If driving through a deer-crossing zone at night, use your brights. Bright lights will increase your visibility and better your chances of spotting any deer before impact.

  • Decrease your speed when driving through a deer-crossing zone and be ready to brake if you spot any deer on the roadside.

  • Deer travel in packs. If you spot one, rest assured there are more nearby.

Fireworks

Fireworks are a festive part of the New Year’s celebration, but they can also be dangerous. Here are some tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:

  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.

  • Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.

  • A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.

  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.

  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.

  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.

  • Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.

  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.

  • Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.

  • Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.

  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.

  • FAA regulations PROHIBIT the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.

Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

Events

Dec 5-10

NAIC 2019 Fall National Meeting
JW Marriott, Austin, TX

Dec 10-13

NCOIL Annual Meeting
JW Marriott, Austin, TX

Dec 10

TWIA Quarterly Board Meeting
Omni, Corpus Christi, TX