halloween

Top Halloween Safety Tips to Make Your Home Less Scary

By Tanya Svoboda

Every year my husband and I assemble a fake graveyard on the front lawn as part of our Halloween display. We use those Styrofoam tombstones they sell at big box stores and have plastic skeletons emerging from the grass beside them. The problem is the tombstones are lightweight and the plastic spikes they sell with them are just not strong enough to keep them anchored. So before Halloween even arrives most of the display is knocked over.

I asked my husband to try and come up with a better solution this year. He’s an architect and I figured he would be better equipped to figure out how to stabilize everything. Once he was finished, he called me out to take a look at the final results. “Check it out! Go ahead and give the tombstones a kick!” he said, “They won’t tip over!”

So I looked, and I kicked. And then I realized the reason they wouldn’t be tipping over is because he had used rebar poles to secure them. If you aren’t familiar with rebar, it’s a twisted steel bar that’s usually used to reinforce masonry projects. He had hammered one end into the ground and had about 6 inches of the pole spiking up from the ground and into the bottom of the tombstone.

I had to wait until I was able to get the image of trick-or-treaters impaling themselves on our front lawn out of my head before I could explain that although the tombstones were indeed more stable, this wasn’t a safe solution. Now my husband is a very intelligent man who did exactly what I asked – made the display secure. However, he forgot to take into consideration that if there is a way for children to hurt themselves, they will find it. Especially if they are all fired up on miniature candy bars.

In the end, we took our display down and opted to regroup next Halloween with a new decorating idea. We also questioned what else we needed to make safer – and what would our homeowners insurance cover if someone got hurt despite these precautions. Here’s what we learned.

How to Make Your Home Safer for Trick-or-Treaters
  1. Look for sharp edges and trip hazards. Obviously, avoid using rebar. But also, make sure that your decorative display doesn’t have anything that might snag a costume. Or if it could, be certain there is a soft landing beside it and no nearby sharp edges. Assume that excited kids will be cutting through your yard when you’re giving everything a once over too.
  2. Switch out live candles for battery operated ones. Doing this eliminates fire risk, and because the battery-operated candles don’t blow out – you won’t have to put your hand inside a cold, slimy pumpkin more than once. Also, there are some really fun LED lights out there that can change colors and are operated via remote control.
  3. Put your pets away. Even if your dog is gentle and your cat is mellow – they need to be put in their crate or locked in another room before trick-or-treaters start arriving. Halloween can be a stressful time for even the best-behaved animals. The constant doorbell ringing and all these new and exciting small people coming over to play can make pets unpredictable.
  4. Make sure stairs and pathways are cleared and well lit. You don’t have to make your lighting so bright that Halloween visitors feel like they are walking into an alien abduction, but the path to your door should be easy to see. Putting temporary, solar stairway lighting on the steps makes things safer and keeps the spooky mood. Be sure to put them out a few days before so they have time to charge in the daylight.
If There is a Halloween Mishap, Will My Homeowners Insurance Cover it?

I reached out to our insurance agent Jack Buoscio, of State Farm, to find out what kind of protection most homeowners have. Jack explained that how much coverage people have depends on whether they have an umbrella policy. “Most, standard homeowner’s insurance will cover accidents, and the liability that might come with them – but only up to a certain dollar amount. Typically, that coverage is around $300,000 but homeowners should check with their personal agents to be certain.”

In short, if an accident happens on your property or in your home, the property damage, associated medical costs and potential liability is covered to a large degree even without an umbrella policy. Here are a few scenarios that would be covered by typical home insurance.

  1. A trick-or-treater is injured. If a small witch or superhero is hurt, whether it is your fault or theirs, the costs associated with it are covered, up to your limit, by your homeowner’s insurance.
  2. Your property is damaged. If overzealous Halloween revelers hurt your property by accidentally breaking a window or dinging your siding during a friendly egg bombing – it’s covered. Acts of intentional vandalism and damage are also covered.
  3. There is a fire or water damage. If fire or water damage occurs because of things like a Halloween candle, decorative lighting or a zombie fountain – your standard home insurance policy has you covered.

If you do have an umbrella policy, you will be covered for all of the above – plus any damage and associated medical and liability costs that occur outside of your property. Your coverage limit will also be considerably higher than it is with a standard policy alone.

Jack urges homeowners to consider umbrella policies if they host Halloween gatherings, especially if they involve teenagers. “A local family had a backyard bonfire that went out of control after someone poured gasoline on it. Several teenage party goers were injured, and their parents sued the homeowner. The medical and court costs quickly exceed the homeowners $300,000 standard coverage limit.”

More than likely, your Halloween will be uneventful and the only regret you’ll have is how much extra candy you bought. But do strongly consider taking the time to do a quick property safety check. It may also be a good idea to give your insurance agent a call to confirm your coverage if you plan to host a party or just want extra protection.


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