An Insurance Agent’s Guide to Thanksgiving

It’s likely your Thanksgiving traditions are well underway as you finalize your travel plans, begin tackling your shopping list, pull out decorations, and extend the guest list last minute. Unfortunately, not everyone’s festivities will go without disaster (there’s a chance a turkey may even cross your path and cause unexpected mayhem), but there are ways you can prepare for what could go wrong. Here are three incidents you’ll want to avoid:

1. Cooking-induced fires
Thanksgiving holds the gold for the most home cooking fires on a holiday, with 32% resulting from leaving equipment unattended. What precautions can you take?

  • Don’t leave anything cooking—anywhere in the house—unattended, especially when grilling, frying or broiling.

  • Set a timer to check all food that’s baking, roasting, or boiling regularly.

  • Don’t leave the house when anything is cooking.

  • Keep kids out of the kitchen, unless you’re closely supervising them as your sous chef.

  • Keep anything flammable, like clothing, dish towels, oven mitts, wooden or plastic pieces, etc away from your stove, oven, or other hot surface.

An increased love for deep-fried flavor has also added to the huge increase in cooking fires. To those planning to use a deep fryer this Thanksgiving, keep in mind:

  • Use it at least 10 feet away from your house and off of your deck. (And, away from trees, leaves, or anything else that could catch fire easily.)

  • Have a fire extinguisher ready—hopefully you won’t need it, but better to have at bay.

  • Don’t mix water with oil. Make sure the turkey is fully defrosted and dry before putting into the vat of oil.

  • Make sure the fryer is completely level, and do not move it once it’s in place.

In case something does go wrong while cooking, your homeowners policy should cover the damage, but it’s best to double check before the holiday.

2. Over-serving adults or minors
Defined by the Insurance Information Institute (III), social host liability is “the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest, and it can can have serious consequences for party throwers.” In worst case scenarios, over-serving guests can lead to drunk driving, accidents, or death.

As celebratory wine and beer are likely flowing on Thanksgiving, III recommends to make sure, as a host, you:

  • Take time to understand your state laws, and if you could be liable.

  • Limit your own intake to have a clear picture of your guests’ intake and limits.

  • Always have food and non-alcoholic options.

  • Consider getting a bartender that will be in charge of cutting guests off, instead of putting it on yourself.

  • Help guests that have had too much find another way home, or offer they stay over.

Homeowners insurance can protect you up to a point, but it may not be enough depending on your financial situation. Make sure to ask your insurance agent how you could be affected under your current policy.

3. Traveling risks
AAA estimates that over 54 million Americans will travel this year over the Thanksgiving weekend. With so many cars on the road, there’s a huge responsibility for every driver to be extra vigilant and safe. Being a defensive driver is your best bet to avoiding potential accidents, but there are other steps you can take too:

  • Prepare your car for long-distance travel by doing things such as refilling fluids and putting air in your tires. Check everything you can (including your emergency kit), even if it means stopping by your local gas station for a second eye.

  • Leave early to avoid peaks of traffic and postpone travel if weather conditions aren’t ideal.

  • Map out directions before you leave to avoid getting distracted by GPS or having exits sneak up on you.

Auto insurance will certainly come into play in the case something goes wrong during travel, but it’s good to understand exactly what’s covered, and what’s not, before you get behind the wheel.