Hosting Guests for the Holidays? Here’s How to Stay Merry, Bright, and Safe

How do you spend your holidays? If you said “hosting family,” then you’ll need to get your home ready for your holly-est and jolliest family and friends. 

Here at vipHomeLink, we want your holidays to be merry and bright. That’s why we put together a holiday hosting essentials guide to help you and your family stay safe this holiday season! 

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms 

Every home needs working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the peak days when firefighters respond to home fires, and one of the leading culprits is cooking. Before you roast chestnuts over an open fire, check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. (Anna Farris wishes she did on a previous Thanksgiving.)

If you have a security system, arm it every time you leave the home, even if you’re just going out to see neighborhood holiday lights. Potential burglars are frequent unwanted guests during the holiday season, so take all the necessary safety precautions

Serve up cooking safety – fire edition 

a fire extinguisher on a kitchen counter next to a range
Keep your fire extinguisher close!

While you might be tempted to get into the eggnog early when hosting guests for the holidays, hold off drinking any alcoholic beverages. Before you start, clean and declutter the area, especially of flammable items, and never leave your simmering or boiling pots unattended. 

If you have a fire extinguisher, make sure that you have the appropriate type and know how to use it. If any of your appliances have been acting up, call a qualified technician to investigate.

We spoke with the National Fire Protection Association for more fire and cooking safety tips for the holidays!

Serve up cooking safety – food edition 

a homeowner placing Christmas tree shaped cookie dough on a sheet
Wait for the final product!

One of the most important tips for hosting the holidays at home is to wash your hands before handling food and after handling raw meat. Use a food thermometer to ensure your dishes reach safe temperatures, and clean and sanitize utensils to prevent cross contamination. If you’re fortunate to have leftovers, follow expert safety advice, such as putting food away within two hours (one hour in areas of extreme heat).

Be bright but be safe 

holiday lights plugged into a GFCI outlet on the outside of a home
Use GFCIs when possible.

This is an important tip for all homeowners, not just those hosting guests for the holidays. If you have GFCIs, test them before the guests arrive (and also every month). Call a licensed electrician to investigate any issue you find, including non-working outlets and any burning smells.

When it comes to holiday decorations, use GFCIs where possible. Inspect light strings for damaged and loose bulbs, and never use nails or staples when rigging. Check manufacturer’s instructions for indoor/outdoor use and stick to the recommendations. Then turn off any decorations when you’re leaving home or going to sleep.

Keep your exits clear 

We all love our candles, trees, garland, and figurines, but they can be dangerous. Keep decorations away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, portable heaters, and radiators. Also, keep all your exits – doorways and windows – clear, just in case you and your loved ones need to make a quick getaway. 

Baby, it could get cold and icy outside

a bucket of salt and shovel on her front porch after a snowstorm
Be ready for snow problems.

While a “White Christmas” may be a reality for some homeowners in colder locales, winter storms can manifest in different ways – snowstorms, ice storms, hailstorms, and even harsh rainstorms. Make sure you’re ready for a potential power outage with the family, including blankets, bottles of water, games, and batteries (for flashlights and other equipment). 

If you’re in an area prone to snowstorms, get your ice melt, shovels, and other equipment in order. 

Watch out for the little ones 

a baby with reindeer antlers crawling on the ground in front of a Christmas tree
Little reindeer like to explore!

If you’re not used to hosting younger guests for the holidays, do a safety check. Keep poinsettia and mistletoe out of reach, or even skip those decorations. Consider using LED candles instead of real ones, and handle light strings and old ornaments, which may have lead in them, with care. 

Small bows can be choking hazards for pets and young children alike, so avoid placing them on low branches or on presents. Also, ensure your pets wear their ID tags, just in case an unknowing guest lets them out. 

Know your local laws 

More friends and family in your home generally means more cars in your driveway. Do you have enough parking? Depending on your municipality, you may need to pay extra for an on-road overnight parking permit during the winter or seek other solutions. If you live in an area with mass transit, you may have a parking garage that offers parking spots, or a traveling neighbor may even welcome cars in their driveway (if you ask). One of the best deterrents against burglary can be a car in the driveway.

Call your insurance agent 

a man sits at a coffee house and scrolls through his phone
Do you have the right coverage?

Anytime you’re having house guests over for a prolonged stay, you should give your insurance agent a call. Review your current policy and see if you need additional coverage. You should also make it a new year’s resolution to spend time with your insurance agent. Your agent can update your policy with any new gifts, especially expensive ones, and help keep you protected in case of a home insurance claim. 

Take pandemic precautions 

a bench table in a yard is set for a dinner with holiday lights in the background
Be safe while celebrating.

Discuss safety precautions for you and your guests. Depending on your locale, you may want to opt for an outdoor dinner. If you’re in the colder regions of the country, then you may choose to use exhaust fans (to pull air out of the room and not circulate it) and consider investing in portable air cleaners and heaters. 

Stay safe this holiday season and all year round!

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