There are moments during the typical holiday gathering that are beyond our control -- the decorations may not turn out quite right, the eggnog may spill on the carpet, and a guest might gift that fruitcake yet AGAIN.
But there are also some more serious mishaps destined to occur, according to experts we spoke with from Allstate Insurance and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here's how you can avoid the five big-time holiday party disasters they see most often.
1. Valuables disappear during a party.
As much as we'd like to believe it's not true, things do go missing during holiday parties. As a host, Allstate suggests putting away or locking up valuables before having guests over. And as a guest, you’ve got a responsibility too, says Kari Mather, a spokesperson for Allstate. “At house parties, people tend to leave wallets and purses in a room and forget about them,” she says. “But it’s important to keep an eye on your stuff."
2. The tree becomes your house's biggest hazard.
Christmas tree fires are more common than you think -- they resulted in about $16 million in property loss last year, reports Kim Dulic of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The fix? "Think carefully about where you put your decor," Dulic says. She advises keeping a live tree far from heaters, where it will dry out and become more flammable. (Christmas trees can burn faster than newspaper, and it's not a pretty sight.) Make sure your tree isn't dead before you buy, and water it often once it's home. If you go the artificial route, look for packaging that assures your tree is flame-resistant.
3. Your kitchen goes up in flames.
When your house is filled with guests, it's hard to notice that burgeoning grease fire in the kitchen or the tipped-over candle on the garland. (There were 7,000 candle fires last year, Dulic says of Safety Commission estimates.) So test all alarms to make sure their batteries work properly, and never leave candles unattended. Also, check your twinkly light strands for frayed wires, and resist the urge to plug too many strands into one outlet (instructions will be on the box, Mather says).
4. The "I'll just wing it!" approach to decorating totally backfires.
According to government estimates, about 10,000 people were injured during the holiday decorating season last year, Dulic says. Many of them fell from ladders. Take the time to find a ladder that's the right size for your task, and ask someone to watch you in case you lose your balance. As easy as it may be, don't stand on a chair or box when decorating hard-to-reach places. "Back sprains were a top contender (for injuries) last year," Dulic notes.
5. Guests hit the eggnog too hard.
Driving fatalities are always higher during the holiday periods, Forbes reports. So take a minute to make sure your guests get home safe, Dulic advises. Call a taxi, offer an extra bed -- any amount of effort is better than a holiday accident.