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By: Dan Reith
Principal Broker
Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

2020 has given us much to remember. With the Christmas holiday season fast approaching it will be important to experience it with as many warm and positive memories as we can. To that end, let us not lose sight of some simple tactics that will prevent you from adding holiday misfortune to your 2020 memory wall.

With respect to your automobile consider:

  • When shopping, place valuables in the trunk keeping seats, drink holders and open trays clear of anything of value. In the absence of a trunk, hatch-backs and mini vans, place items in a covered container or cover with a blanket.
  • Lock your car! Whether at home, in the lane or garage, or any public parking lot, this will reduce the risk of it being stolen and the loss of any personal property stored in your car.
  • Drive with due care and control no matter the weather or how rushed you are! Black ice, too much snow, not enough salt on the road or the driver in front of you who suddenly slammed on their brakes are not excuses for you to avoid being charged for an at fault loss. We suggest giving yourself extra time to get to your destination to ensure your safe arrival.
  • Be alert! Just because you are obeying the rules of the road does not mean everyone else around you is.
  • Stop texting, stop talking on the phone, and set that coffee cup down and put your snack away! Driving requires attention, especially more so in the winter adverse conditions. More than ample studies have proved driver distraction is the root cause of many fatal accidents.
  • Take a moment, and ensure your vehicle is prepared for winter driving before the snow hits. Ensure it is mechanically ready for winter, you have equipped your vehicle with a winter safety kit and the snow tires that you have installed are in sound condition.
  • While it should go without saying, but too many still forget, holiday season or not DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! If you drink; take a cab, stay over-night or find a ride home with a sober driver.

With respect to your home:

  • If you are celebrating the season with a real tree, ensure they are kept well watered and not placed in front of a heat source. Shut off the lights and electronic ornaments when not at home or out of the room for a prolonged period. Drying trees can lead to a total fire loss of your home in less than 3 minutes!
  • While candles do lend a seasonal scent to air and help to remove cooking odors, they are still a leading cause of house fires. Do not leave candles unattended or place them close to flammable fabrics. Always extinguish them when leaving a room for a prolonged period or leaving the house.
  • Do not leave items on the stove or in the oven unattended. It is common to find yourself short of an ingredient and make a quick trip to the grocery store without properly turning off your appliances. Keep a residential fire extinguisher near the stove, along with baking soda. Either can be used to quickly should a small fire flare up on the element.
  • Lock your home. When not at home ensure all doors and windows are locked. Do not display wrapped or unwrapped gifts near open windows. When goods are visible the home can be a greater target. Use your alarm if your home is equipped with one. Over 58% of all home robberies occur through the front door.  
  • Take steps to secure windows and doors so they cannot be pried open from the outside.
  • Ensure exterior lights are working, and on a timer, so that doorways and large windows are lit at night. Do not sacrifice safety for home decoration. Build safety into your decorating plan.
  • If traveling, have your driveway and pathways shoveled to appear someone is home. Place your lights on timers; rotate throughout the house to mimic your usual pattern of light usage throughout the day and evening. This includes festive outdoor light displays. Be sure to cancel newspaper subscriptions, to avoid build up of papers at the front doors, a clear sign that no one is home. Maintain the heat of your home at a minimum and drain water from all lines/pipes before you leave. Have a neighbor, friend or family member collect mail on a daily basis again to prevent build up during your absence. Whoever is checking in on your home leave them with your contact information but also the contact numbers for your insurance provider should a claim need to be reported. It is best it be reported sooner rather than later. This will allow for any damage to be taken care of immediately mitigating the possibility of further loss.

With respect to shopping consider:

  • Christmas shopping season is ideal for identity theft. Keep track of all credit card and debit card receipts, and shred. To maintain control of your personal information, restrict all gift purchases to only one credit card and reconcile your charges against your receipts. Ensure that your anti-virus and malware is current and up to date before you do your on-line shopping.
  • Doing your holiday shopping on-line? Expecting packages to be delivered to your home? Do not leave them unattended. Only use home delivery when someone is there to receive the package. Track your shipments and plan your absence from home accordingly. Alternatively, use an address where there is someone available throughout the business day such as your office or a post-box facility or another family member.
  • If buying goods on-line and taking delivery from private individuals, do NOT attend their homes for pick up and DO NOT invite them to your home for delivery. Meet in a well-attended public place such as the parking lot of a coffee shop. Better still, St. Thomas Police Services offers a public area for just this purpose in their parking lot. Plan to make exchanges there during the day. 
  • Lastly, protect yourself! When shopping ladies, make certain your handbag is zipped closed and cell phones secured within. Gentlemen, if you must carry a wallet put it in your front pant pocket not your back pocket. It is much easier for someone to steal it from the back.

These tips are just a few things you and your family can employ to make your holiday experiences safe, happy, and memorable, and reduce your chance for loss. For more detailed information and specific tactics contact your insurance provider, St. Thomas Police Services, OPP and/or your local fire department.