Halloween is a little different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents have new considerations and safety measures to bear in mind for trick-or-treaters. But there are also things drivers and homeowners need to do to stay safe and ensure everyone has an enjoyable Halloween.

Not only can the following tips help keep kids safe, but they also can make sure a scary, unexpected car insurance or home insurance claim doesn’t jump out at you when you least expect it.

Taking extra care during COVID-19

For some communities this year, a traditional Halloween isn’t possible. If you decide you’d like to have a quieter, safer night with your family, there are fun things you can do in the weeks leading up October 31 and on the night itself.

You can still show off Halloween craft projects at your front entrance and in your windows and decorate your property. However, if you do get in the Halloween spirit, you might want to put up a sign to let the community know whether you’ll be handing out candy at all. You can always drop treats on your neighbour's doorsteps, ring the bell, and run away while making sure to include a note letting your neighbour know they're from you.

In your home, consider setting up a piñata filled with your favourite Halloween treats, or a trick or treat around the house, kind of like an Easter egg hunt. You can even have a virtual party so children can show off their costumes. Other indoor options include cooking a Halloween feast or baking snacks, holding a virtual pumpkin carving contest, or having horror movie night.

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However, if you are planning on a more traditional Halloween celebration, here are a few things to consider:

For your home

Even in an average year, Halloween can haunt property owners. According to research by 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 accidents happening, which may impact your insurance. Think about making plans to mitigate your risk and liability.

While many people may be opting to stay in this Halloween because of COVID-19, if you are venturing out, be aware a vacant house is more likely to broken into if no one is home. If you’re living in a jurisdiction where trick-or-treating is still happening, be sure you take the necessary steps to protect your home. 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 keep up 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 as well as plenty of food and heed the COVID-19 restrictions as prescribed by your local health authority. Whether you’re handing out treats or entertaining guests, be sure to wear a mask to help reduce the spread of the virus. 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.
  • Clear the path to your door. By 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.
  • 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 of 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; there’s plenty of battery-operated candles or flashlights that can be used instead that won’t be a fire hazard. No matter what you use, make sure any decorations are kept away from hot lights or open flame. 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.
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For your vehicle

Your car is also at a higher risk 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 premiums when there are preventative measures you can take.

Personal vehicle vandalism is nearly twice as likely than average on Halloween. Here are a few things you can do to lower that risk:

  • Drive carefully. Whether you are celebrating Halloween or not, remember there’s going to 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. 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 challenging 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.
  • 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 keep electronics, jewellery and any other valuable items out of sight and locked 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 it can be used as a dump for candy wrappers. Make sure it’s secure.

Given the usual dangers that come out on Halloween night and the added risk of the COVID-19, it’s a great time of year to review your home and auto insurance policies to make sure you have adequate coverage.

Gary Hilson

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has produced thousands of words for print and pixel about business and technology for a variety of publications and corporate clients. When he’s not tapping on the keyboard, Gary collects comic books, attends live theater, constructs Lego, and buys books he always intends to read.

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