A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: Counting down the ‘Twelve Days of Risk-mas;’ here’s what you better watch out for!

The classic holiday song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song in which each verse describes a gift given by “my true love” on one of the 12 days of Christmas. You know, a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves and so on.

As you can probably tell by now, I see risk at every turn, and that would include in this song. For instance, with the price of gold these days, receiving five gold rings invites an opportunity for theft (be sure to schedule them on your homeowner’s policy). A leaping lord could take too many leaps and encounter a workplace accident. And a maid-a-milking could be kicked by an agitated cow if she is not careful. You get the idea.

In reality, the days leading up to Christmas are often hectic for many, and it’s a time when many of us are exposed to a number of risks. So, to borrow from the popular Christmas tune, I give you “The Twelve Days of Risk-mas”:

identity theft

Day 1. Identity theft: Make online purchases with a pre-paid credit card that does not give out your name. You can load up that pre-paid card as you go, and it is very easy to do by transferring money online from one of your checking or savings accounts to these cards. Local banks are now carrying these pre-paid credit cards and are encouraging that you to use them to help avoid identify theft.

Day 2. Holiday stress: Plan your holiday tasks earlier this season to help reduce your stress load. Shop early, make your holiday travel plans well in advanced, and open up a Christmas savings account and begin saving a little each paycheck to reduce the financial stress. My trick that I have used for years is to pay an extra 10 to 15 percent toward all of my monthly utility bills to build up a credit and then in January I can skip those bills to help pay off my credit card bill that I built up in December.

Day 3. Christmas tree fire: Annually, on average, there are 240 house fires as a result of real Christmas trees catching fire. To avoid this hazard altogether, buy an artificial tree that is fire resistant. Many artificial trees are now safer than before due to the availability (and requirement) of fire-retardant artificial foliage. If you still choose to use a real tree, make sure that you water your tree and limit the number of lights you string together on one outlet.

Day 4. Driving after too much holiday cheer: If you partake in too much holiday cheer, then it’s always advised to make arrangements for a ride home. A DUI charge and spending a few days in jail are probably not on your list of holiday fun.

Day 5. Chimney fire: Santa’s suit needs to stay clean as he makes his rounds, so make sure you have your chimney checked and cleaned before using it this season. On average, there are about 24,300 chimney fires that occur annually, and most of these can be prevented if you have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually.

santa in chimney

Day 6. Snow shoveling: ​ According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2011, an average of 11,500 snow shoveling-related injuries were treated from 1990 to 2006, with nearly 100 deaths related to snow removal. Many of those fatalities were related to overexertion and a resulting heart attack. If you are over the age of 40 and not in great shape you might consider hiring entrepreneurial neighborhood boy to avoid the risks.

Day 7. Candle fire: On average, 29 home candle fires were reported per day, and the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve. Roughly one-third (36 percent) of home candle fires started in bedrooms. These fires caused 39 percent of the associated deaths and 45 percent of the associated injuries. More than half (56 percent) of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle. In December, 11 percent of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4 percent the rest of the year.

Day 8. Cooking fire: The holiday season is the leading time of the year for kitchen fires. There are a lot of distractions and multitasking going on in the kitchen, and as a result unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in these fires. Two-thirds (67 percent) of home cooking fires started with the ignition of food or other cooking materials. More than half (55 percent) of reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves

Day 9. Space heater malfunction: Keep fire safety in mind when heating your home in the winter months. December, January and February are the leading months for home heating fires. Space heaters cause about one-third of all winter house fires and 80 percent of all winter heating fire deaths. Combustible materials placed too close to a heating unit, is not uncommon — it accounts for more than half of all home heating fire deaths across the country, according to a 2013 report issued by the National Fire Protection Association. You should avoid the use of space heaters if possible, and if you must use a space heater then make sure that you use one designed for indoor use to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and only those that have tip-over emergency shutoff switches.

frozen pipe

Day 10. Freeze damage: Walk around the house and look for areas of potential freeze damage. Cover outdoor spigots and insulate all exposed water pipes subject to freezing temperatures before Old Man Winter comes knocking.

Day 11. Home break-in: Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, residential burglaries spike approximately 10 percent. Most of us have all seen the classic 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone where Harry and Marv case the home of Kevin McCallister with the intent to steal. Well before traveling over the mountains and through the woods this year, you may want to consider installing a central monitoring burglar alarm, stopping the mail and newspaper, installing timers on a few lights and having a neighbor watch your house while you are away.

12. Improper management of risk exposure: If it’s been several years since you sat down with your independent insurance agent, January is a good time to schedule a visit or a phone call to review your policy and your limits of liabilities, deductibles and coverages. As your family grows or evolves, risk exposures change and it’s a good idea to review those changes so that you are not caught by surprise. You also may want to have him or her shop your insurance with other carriers to make sure to keeps the carrier’s pencil sharp to help you pay off your Christmas bill.

Be safe, my friends.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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