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Porch Pirates and Holiday Hazards

Report: Millions of Americans Experience Porch Pirates and Holiday Hazards

You better watch out… for Porch Pirates!

According to new data from, which examined an assortment of seasonal risks in its 2019 Holiday Hazards Study, 59.4 million Americans (18%) have had a package stolen from their porch or doorstep.

In 2018, found that 26.1 million Americans have had a package stolen during November or December. However, for this year’s study, survey recipients were asked about package theft from any time of year rather than just during the holiday season. As a result, the numbers are higher—and more revealing.

“As online ordering continues to grow in popularity and increasingly become the norm for shoppers, the threat of porch pirates will inevitably continue to grow as well. While package theft takes place all year round, the holiday season is prime time—and consumers ought to know that there are available solutions out there that are effective as well as convenient,” said Nick DiUlio, analyst. “One underutilized solution is the package lockbox, left on your porch, which only authorized users and couriers have access to.”

Among the study’s additional findings:

  • Weather: Half of Americans (0 million) have slipped on ice, while 79.2 million have experienced a winter weather-related auto accident.
  • Fires: 9 million have experienced a fire from cooking, while 13.2 have had a fire from candles, 13.2 from overpacked electric outlets, 9.9 from a fireplace malfunction and 6.6 million from a Christmas tree.
  • Vandals: 7 million Americans have had home holiday decorations stolen or vandalized.
  • Protection: 6 million use a home security system, while 59.4 million send deliveries to a work address, 36.3 send deliveries to an Amazon locker or similar service, and 33.0 use a package lockbox.

“For each of these holiday hazards, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, your family and your finances—from winterizing your car to fixing faulty outlets in your home to reviewing your insurance policies,” added DiUlio

Should you take precautions and still suffer a holiday mishap, your standard homeowner’s policy has your back – protecting damage to your home, fires and other disasters, and even the gifts under your tree, which fall under personal belongings coverage. But to best avoid damage and disaster, start by following these holiday safety tips.

Christmas caution should top your list

 Songs and shows about Christmas describe it as warm and magical, but safety and insurance experts say December is prime time for accidents, injuries and property damage. 

And they aren’t only speaking of the oft publicized dangers of traveling on the roads during the holidays. For accidental fires, in particular, your risk is increased right at home. 

Dragging a jumble of electrical lights and flammable decorations out of the attic, bringing a dead tree in the house and stocking up on alcohol will do that. But fear not, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a few simple steps can give you some holiday peace of mind. 

Should you take precautions and still suffer a holiday mishap, your standard homeowners policy has your back in cases of damage to your home, under fire and other disasters, and even the gifts under your tree, which fall under personal belongings coverage. 

The dark side of your Christmas lights

Nearly half of all Christmas tree fires are caused by lights, according to the National Fire Protection Association. And aside from cooking, decorations are the leading cause of holiday home fires. 

To help protect against your warm holiday turning white hot, begin by reading and following labels. 

“If you’re going to put up holiday decorations, make sure you’re using extension cords designed for outside and not inside to prevent any circuit issues,” advises Allstate agency owner Frank Torres, adding that claims for electrical fires jump more than 20 percent during the holidays. 

The job of putting up Christmas lights isn’t an easy one, and you may be tempted to overload extension cords — but don’t. Never plug in more than three light strings into one cord, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Also, unplug lights when you are not home and turn them off when you go to bed. 

Before putting up last year’s lights, check them for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections. 

“Any of the sockets that are not in properly, anything that looks funny about the lights — just throw them away and get a new one,” says Elliot F. Kaye, commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Get a new set.” 

Also, the vintage look may be in —  but decorations made from paper, lace or fabric are quite flammable, the CPSC says. If you opt to display these, do it far from a heat source such as candles, holiday lights or the fireplace. 

If damaged by fire, your trees, plants and shrubs are covered under a standard homeowners policy, but most policies limit coverage to 5 percent of your dwelling coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. 

Avoiding tree trouble

If you are one who likes to put up your tree on Black Friday or even before, you might end up with a real fire hazard by New Year’s Eve, according to the National Fire Protection Association. 

Christmas tree fires cause an average of $10 million in direct property damage per year, the organization estimates. 

“Christmas tree fires aren’t particularly common, when they do occur they are likely to be more serious,” says NFPA President Jim Pauley. 

A third of home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical failure, Pauley says. “A heat source too close to the tree causes one in every six of these fires. That’s why it’s so important to take great care in choosing a Christmas tree, placing it in your home and decorating it.” 

If you bring a real tree into your home for an extended stay, make sure it passes what the NFPA calls “the shake test.” The tree should be sticky to the touch, and hen you give it a good shake, minimal needles fall. 

Once set up in your house, keep it three feet from any head source to prevent drying, and water daily. In addition, make sure you don’t place the tree where it could block a doorway or exit. 

Skipping the real tree altogether? One note on artificial trees: Check the packaging to make sure it’s fire resistant before putting on lights. 

Candlelight caution

Candles create a holiday warm glow and aroma, but they can pose a real danger — especially if you have pets and small children about. 

A candle that gets too close to drapes or other fabric can cause a fire in mere seconds. 

“Let’s not forget that a candle is an open flame,” says Lisa Braxton, public education specialist for the NFPA. “Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed.” 

Candle fires peak in December, with January ranking second. For maximum safety, you can get the same candlelight effect with battery operated, LED candles. 

If you must use the real thing, place them far away from flammable items such as trees, decorations, curtains and furniture, and use holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily. And never, Braxton emphasizes, burn a candle when oxygen is being used in the home. 

Stand by your pan

Thanksgiving isn’t the only holiday when you must be extra vigilant in the kitchen. 

Christmas eve ranks among the most dangerous days for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. 

Not surprisingly, leaving a stove unattended is the leading behavior causing cooking fires, deaths and injuries, Braxton says. 

“You have to be alert when you are cooking, and stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop,” she says. “If you have to leave even for a minute, turn the burner off.”

The cook should always be in the kitchen, but what should not be are loose-fitting clothing and unsupervised children. In addition, turn pan handles toward the back of the stove, so children and others will be less likely to spill scalding contents on themselves and others. 

This study was conducted for via telephone by SSRS. Interviews were conducted from November 12-17, 2019 among a sample of 1,005 respondents in English (971) and Spanish (34). The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.56% at the 95% confidence level.  All SSRS Omnibus data are weighted to represent the target population.

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