By Marcus Leach

With the festive season well underway — households stocking up on gifts, Christmas parties in full swing and festive travel plans being made — the Association of British Insurers (ABI) warns people not to get caught out in some of the most common Christmas calamities.

Don’t get burnt out

Candles are popular at Christmas and the extensive Christmas cooking can mean fire risk is heightened. More than half of home fires are caused by cooking accidents and throughout the year candles start an average of five household fires a day.

- Ensure smoke alarms are fitted, have batteries and are tested. Smoke alarms are absent in 37% of home fires;
- Avoid leaving candles unattended or burning whilst you go to sleep;
- Always keep an eye on what’s in the oven or on the stove.

Protect your possessions

With all the extra gifts in most homes over Christmas, a theft or accidental damage could put a real dampener on festive spirits…and your wallet.

- Many insurers automatically increase your contents insurance over Christmas to account for extra presents. Check this with your insurer;
- But don’t forget to re-evaluate the value of your contents insurance after Christmas. Expensive gifts may mean your current cover is not enough;
- 36% of all burglaries are opportunistic. Ensure doors and windows are properly locked - even if you’re just popping out to a neighbour for a festive drink.

Be wise, whether you’re home or away

Thieves target unoccupied homes during the Christmas period. Last year insurers dealt with 10,000 burglary claims over Christmas. And at the height of last winter’s cold snap, insurers handled 3,500 claims a day for damage caused by burst pipes. If you’re away over the season, take steps to avoid coming home to an unwanted surprise.

- Prevent burst pipes by leaving heating on for at least an hour a day, or all day in severe weather;
- Get a friend to visit your home regularly whilst away to detect burst pipes or burglaries early and minimise damage;
- Make your home appear occupied with timer lighting to deter thieves;
- Ensure any gifts are not on display through windows.

Drive responsibly

‘Tis the season to be merry, but also responsible when it comes to driving. Last year’s festive season saw 6,662 arrests for drink driving.

If we experience a cold snap this year, motorists have reassurance that most insurers will not charge them extra for fitting winter tyres

- If you’re drinking alcohol, do not drive;
- Ensure winter tyres are fitted in accordance with manufacturers’ specifications.

“Every year insurers deal with claims that put a real dampener on people’s festive spirits," Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance at the ABI said.

"To make sure the Christmas period is a happy one, don’t forget the common sense precautions that will help protect your home and possessions.”

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