This article has been updated from a previous version.
This year, Halloween is a little different because of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, trick-or-treating can go ahead in Ontario. Parents have new considerations and safety measures to bear in mind, including using hand sanitizer frequently and incorporating face coverings. But there are also things drivers and homeowners need to do to stay safe and ensure everyone has an enjoyable Halloween.
Preparing your home for Halloween
Even in an average year, Halloween can haunt property owners. According to research from Travelers Insurance, crime-related home insurance claims rise by 24% on October 31.
Most insurance claims from that night are linked to property damage and burglaries. There’s also an increased risk of collisions happening, which may impact your insurance. Think about making plans to mitigate your risk and liability.
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If you are venturing out this Halloween, be aware a vacant house is more likely to be broken into because no one is home. Be sure to take the necessary steps to protect your property. But it’s not just your home that’s at risk.
Homeowner liability risk also rises dramatically on October 31, so you need to be mindful of how well you maintain your property and prepare for the possibility you’ll have trick-or-treaters at your door.
If you want to keep your home, family, and visitors to your property safe this Halloween, here are ways to do so:
- Be a sober host. While large gatherings in private homes are highly discouraged due to the pandemic, the rule of thumb is that the host should stay sober. You’re responsible for your guests, and you can’t evaluate if they’re too impaired to drive if you’ve been drinking yourself. Have non-alcoholic beverages on hand and plenty of food, and heed the COVID-19 restrictions prescribed by your local health authority.
- Wear a face covering. Whether you’re handing out treats or entertaining guests, be sure to wear a mask to help reduce the spread of the virus.
- Clear the path to your door. Come Halloween, the ground is covered in leaves, making it a slippery hazard, especially for young children. Be sure the route to your door is well-lit and clear of leaves or any other obstacles. Don’t overdo the decorations, either. It’s fun to go all out for Halloween, but some decorations aren’t worth the trouble. Rather than be haunting, they can become hazardous obstacles in your yard and walkway. While your home insurance policy will cover you if someone accidentally injures themselves on your property, you’re still required to take every reasonable precaution to make your property safe.
- Clean up your front yard. Kids sometimes like to take shortcuts across your lawn or wander away from your door. That means ensuring your yard is well-lit and clear of anything that can be tripped over, such as garden equipment and toys. Once the kids are done knocking on doors, bring in your decorations such as pumpkins that can be easily stolen and secure bikes and other accessories on your property.
- Keep your pets inside. Not all children or adults are fans of cats and dogs, and your pets may not be fans of strangers at the door either. They should be kept inside the house so they can’t get spooked and dash outside, possibly into traffic.
- Minimize fire risks. Avoid using real candles inside jack-o’-lanterns; plenty of battery-operated candles or flashlights are available that won’t be a fire hazard. No matter what you use, keep any decorations away from hot lights or open flames.
Suppose you plan on using decorative lights indoors or outdoors. In that case, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs recommends using lights certified by a recognized organization such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or the Underwriters’ Laboratory of Canada (ULC or C-UL). Also, check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard damaged sets and don’t overload extension cords.
Staying safe behind the wheel
Your car is also at a higher risk on Halloween night. Your car insurance policy will take care of you in case of any unforeseen incident, but there’s no point in risking a hike in your premium when there are preventative measures you can take.
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Personal vehicle vandalism is nearly twice as likely on Halloween than on average. Here are a few things you can do to lower that risk:
- Drive carefully. Whether you are celebrating Halloween or not, remember there will be young, excited children out who may dart into the street or forget to look both ways before crossing. They’re also going to be harder to see in the dark with their costumes on, so drive slower, be extra vigilant, and don’t drive distracted.
- Be on the lookout. Always check your mirrors and blind spots when your car is in reverse, such as when you’re entering and exiting your driveway, as kids often walk behind vehicles and are hard to spot.
- Don’t drive impaired. Even if you’re not attending a Halloween bash, you might be tempted to drink, but if you do, don’t drive. An impaired driving conviction is sure to raise your insurance premium.
- Park your vehicle in a safe spot. You’ll need comprehensive auto insurance to cover vandalism, and it’s optional. You can minimize the threat of vandalism by parking your car in the garage if that’s an option. If not, park your vehicle where you can keep an eye on it.
- Lock your car. No matter where you park, make sure the doors are locked, and any valuable items are out of sight. Lock electronics in the glove box or the trunk to lower the temptation for thieves. Emptying the car is an even better idea.
- Cover your truck’s pick-up bed. Put a cover on your truck’s pick-up bed, as it can be a hiding spot for ghouls and goblins to jump out and say “boo!” or a dumping spot for candy wrappers. Make sure it’s secure.
Given the usual dangers that come out on Halloween night, it’s an excellent time to review your home and auto insurance policies to make sure you have adequate coverage all year long.