The annual apparition of spooky skeletons, broomstick-riding witches and carved pumpkins is a sure sign fall is well under way. Second only to Christmas in terms of how much consumers spend on decorations,¹ Americans of all ages seem to love celebrating Halloween.
The Halloween spirit has spread to the inside and outside of the home as well, with homeowners setting up elaborate displays that range from haunted houses in the basement to graveyards on the lawn, as well as high-tech LED lighting outdoors. When planning and setting up your Halloween decorations, it is a good idea to consider any potential risks involved. Taking steps to prepare your property and to protect any visitors can help spare you from a truly frightening night.
Be Aware of Dangers that Might Not be Visible During the Night
- Walk your property before Halloween to identify and minimize potential dangers, especially those difficult to see after dark. For example, check to make sure temporary extension cords are secured to avoid becoming a tripping hazard.
- Make sure walking surfaces are even and clear of debris, and that any obstacles are clearly marked, such as stakes, exposed roots or holes.
- Ensure that your front yard, walkway and entry way are well-lit so that those unfamiliar with your home can safely navigate. If using a fog machine, be careful that the fog does not make it difficult to see tripping hazards.
Remember that Welcoming the Neighborhood Inside Also Invites Risk
- When hosting a haunted house, make sure to allow adequate floor and exit lighting. Keep exits clear to help prevent tripping.
- Avoid advertising the event in your neighborhood or on social media.
- If charging for admission for a haunted house or other forms of entertainment, be aware that this could be considered a business activity and you should consult with your agent or insurance company representative to ensure you have the proper coverage.
Be Smart about Where You Place Decorations
- Set up decorations with traffic flow in mind. Place them to prevent tipping over, blowing away or becoming a tripping hazard.
- When plugging in your scary indoor decorations, do not overload electrical outlets.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to help avoid damage to your home or injury to your guests. For example, make sure inflatable decorations are secured properly and kept away from sources of ignition.
Set Up Spooky Lighting with Caution
- Avoid any kind of open flame.
- Consider using battery-operated candles or LED lighting as a safe alternative to candles.
- Do not drape costumes or other fabrics over light bulbs, which generate heat and can start a fire.
Choose Decorations Wisely
- Avoid dried flowers, cornstalks and crêpe paper because they are highly combustible. Keep these and other decorations away from open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
- Use lights and other electrical decorations that have been tested for safety – look for a certification mark from UL, CSA, ETL or another nationally-recognized laboratory.
- When plugging in decorations, avoid daisy chaining extension cords, which may cause overheating.
- Never staple, nail through or fasten electrical wires or extension cords in any way that might damage the wire or insulation. This could cause electrical shock or fire.
- Plug all outdoor lights and decorations into ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to help reduce the risk of electric shock. Portable GFCIs for outdoor use can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold.
Do Not be Frightened by the Risks
- Give yourself peace of mind and speak with your insurance agent to make sure you are properly covered.
- Consider an umbrella policy that could provide extra protection in case of an accident.