Safety Tips to Help Avoid Holiday Fires

For many, the holiday season brings joy and happiness, but it can also bring danger.  Fires during the holiday season claim the lives of many Americans and injure even more.  The statistics below are provided by the United States Fire Administration (USFA)

The average number of lives lost due to holiday fires is 400, and the average number of injuries due to holiday fires is 1,650. 

Some safety tips to help you and your loved ones stay safe and happy this holiday season:

–          Use only non-flammable decorations (be sure to place the tree and any decorations away from heat vents)

–          Maintain holiday lights (check for frayed wires, bare spots, or gaps in insulation)

–          Do not overload electrical outlets  (do not link more than 3 strands together, unless directions indicate it is safe)

–          Avoid using lit candles (more than half of all December home decoration fires are started by candles)

–          Don’t block exits (be sure your tree or decorations do not block an exit, as this is a safety hazard)

Source: ServPro, Fire & Water Cleanup and Restoration

Please follow these helpful tips to be sure you enjoy a SAFE and happy holiday season.

All of us here at Russ Holcomb Insurance wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Earthquake Anniversary – The Quake of ‘89

Earthquake of 1989 photo

Today is the anniversary of the earthquake of ’89.  Many of us remember this day like it was yesterday. The quake lasted 10–15 seconds and measured 6.9 on the open-ended Richter Scale. The surface-wave magnitude measured 7.1. This devastating quake killed three people in the collapse of the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz.  An estimated 1.4 million people lost power following the quake throughout Santa Cruz County and the Bay Area.  Many people were without necessities like water, food, and shelter as many homes were damaged and unlivable.  The quake killed 63 people throughout Northern California, injured 3,757 and left some 3,000–12,000 people homeless.  It is important to have a Disaster Preparedness Kit on hand for emergencies.  You can purchase a disaster kit, or just be sure to keep water and canned food, flashlights, batteries and first aid kits stored in your home, in a place that would be easily accessible in the event of an earthquake.

How to Secure your Home

While it’s difficult to protect your home from professional thieves, most home burglaries are done by amateurs. These thieves are more easily thwarted if you employ some of these simple security precautions:

Plan to “burglarize” yourself. You’ll discover any weaknesses in your security system that may have previously escaped your notice.

Lock up your home, even if you go out only for a short time. Many burglars just walk in through an unlocked door or window.

Change all the locks and tumblers when you move into a new house.

For the most effective alarm system, conceal all wiring. A professional burglar looks for places where he or she can disconnect the security system.

Your house should appear occupied at all times. Use timers to switch lights and radios on and off when you’re not at home.

If you have a faulty alarm that frequently goes off, get it fixed immediately and tell your neighbors that it’s been repaired. Many people ignore an alarm that goes off periodically.

A spring-latch lock is easy prey for burglars who are “loiding” experts. Loiding is the method of slipping a plastic credit card against the latch tongue to depress it and unlock the door. A deadbolt defies any such attack. It is only vulnerable when there is enough space between the door and its frame to allow an intruder to use power tools or a hacksaw.

If you lose your keys, change the locks immediately.

Before turning your house key over to a professional house cleaner for several hours, make sure the person is honest and reputable as well as hardworking. Check all references thoroughly. If the house cleaner is from a firm, call your local Better Business Bureau to check on the firm’s reputation.

Instead of keeping a spare key in a mailbox, under the doormat, or on a nail behind the garage, wrap the key in foil — or put it in a 35mm film can — and bury it where you can easily find it if you need it.

Don’t leave notes for service people or family members on the door. These act as a welcome mat for a burglar.

If the entrances to your home are dark, consider installing lighting with an infrared detector. Most thieves don’t want to be observed trying to get in a door.

Talk to your neighbors about any suspicious people or strange cars you notice lurking about.

To keep your tools from being stolen, paint the handles. Thieves avoid items that are easy to identify.

Trees located near windows or shrubbery that might shield a burglar from view can be major flaws in your home-protection plan. Consider your landscaping plan in light of your protection needs.

Ask for credentials from any sales-person who requests entry to your home. Ask that their ID be pushed under the door. Many professional burglars use this cover to check out homes. If you’re doubtful, check with the person’s office before letting him or her in.

Do not list your full name on your mailbox or your entry in the telephone book. Use only your initial and your last name.

If someone comes to your door asking to use the phone to call a mechanic or the police, keep the door locked and make the call yourself.


Dogs are good deterrents to burglars. Even a small, noisy dog can be effective — burglars do not like to have attention drawn to their presence. Be aware, however, that trained guard dogs do not make good pets. Obedience training and attack training are entirely different, and only the former is appropriate for a house pet.

Securing Doors

To help burglar-proof your home, install 1-inch throw deadbolt locks on all exterior doors.

A door with too much space between the door and the frame is an invitation for the burglar to use a jimmy. Reinforce the door with a panel of 3/4-inch plywood or a piece of sheet metal.

If there are door hinges on the outside of your house, take down the door and reset the hinges inside. Otherwise all a thief has to do to gain entry to your home is knock out the hinge pin.

You can burglar-proof your glass patio doors by setting a pipe or metal bar in the middle bottom track of the door slide. The pipe should be the same length as the track.

It’s easy for a burglar to pry through rot. Replace rotted door frames with new, solid wood.

It’s simple for a thief to break glass panels and then reach in and open a doorknob from the inside. A door with glass panels should be either fortified, replaced, or secured with deadbolts that can only be opened with a key.

Securing Windows

Protect your windows with one or more good locks, an alarm system, burglar-resistant glass, or many small panes instead of one large area of glass.

When installing a window lock, drip some solder on the screw heads. It will stop a burglar from unscrewing the lock after cutting a small hole in the windowpane.

In the next section, we’ll focus on the special steps to take to keep your home secure while you’re away.

Garage Security

Garages present special challenges for security. Here are some tips for keeping your garage secure.

If you frost or cover your garage windows, burglars won’t be able to tell if your car is gone.

Keep your garage door closed and locked even when your car is not in the garage.

Install a peephole in the door separating the house from the garage. If you hear suspicious sounds, you can check without opening the door.

Are you worried about someone entering your house through your attached garage? If the garage door lifts on a track, a C-clamp can provide extra security since the door cannot be opened if you tighten the C-clamp on the track next to the roller.