Halloween is almost upon us and many households will be participating in the traditions and events held each year across the UK. Trick-or-treating is always popular and, if you live in an area where there are other houses nearby, you’re likely to get some visitors on the evening of the 31st.
While Halloween is a fun and harmless holiday for most, it’s also a high-risk time of year for your property and safety. According to lock specialists Yale, there is typically a 26% increase in burglaries between Halloween and Bonfire Night, so it’s certainly worth giving your home security and general safety some consideration before the festivities begin.
Mischief Night — also known as Corn Night, Trick Night or Micky Night in some areas of the UK — happens either the night before Halloween or the night before Bonfire Night, depending on the tradition in your local area. Many shops will stop selling toilet paper and eggs to children and teens during this time, as these are commonly used to vandalise property, which has resulted in a 52% rise in buildings insurance claims during November, according to the aforementioned research carried out by Yale.
But it’s not just other people you need to watch out for at this time of year — if you decide to decorate the interior or exterior of your home during Halloween, you may unwittingly cause damage to your own property. Understanding the risk factors beforehand can help you avoid the hassle and expense of making a claim, as well as protect the safety of yourself, your family, and anyone else who visits your home.
UK Halloween celebrations have taken a lot of inspiration from the USA in recent years, with the holiday becoming more of an event than ever before. Rather than make do with a carved pumpkin on the doorstep, many households decide to go a bit further, using spooky decorations and props to both entertain and scare trick-or-treaters as they go from house to house.
Most Halloween decorations will not pose a risk to your property, but some may if placed or fitted incorrectly, so any decorations that attach to the outside of your home should be secured properly. Never nail anything to your window frames or front door, as this can leave permanent damage that is likely to get worse over time and may affect the overall energy efficiency of your home. Be sure to secure any decorations as per the manufacturer’s instructions and look out for weak or damaged external features as you go.
At this time of year, the weather tends to become much colder and we’re more likely to experience high winds and stormy conditions. Consider this when planning, purchasing and placing your decorations, as some may not hold up well in poor weather, and could be blown into windows or dislodge roof tiles. Your level of risk depends on how exposed your property is and the nature of its surroundings — for instance, a property situated very close to other homes may be sheltered from some of the effects of bad weather. However, should extreme weather hit, decorations have a higher chance of damaging other homes nearby, which would create a more complicated and problematic insurance claim.
If you’re planning to put lights up, always make sure they’re okay for outdoor use and that the wiring is not damaged. Read any guidelines carefully and always seek advice if you’re not sure about how best to connect them to the electricity supply. Glow sticks or solar lanterns that are suitable for outdoor use can be used instead, especially to line walkways that lead to your property so visitors can see where they’re going. This lessens the risk of damage to your property and the risk of injury to trick-or-treaters.
Where possible, avoid naked flames. While candles are an integral part of creating a spooky atmosphere, particularly when placed inside a carved pumpkin, the risk of fire should be considered very carefully first. This is particularly important when you are expecting plenty of visitors wearing fancy dress. As we have learned from the experience of television presenter Claudia Winkleman and her daughter, whose Halloween costume caught fire while trick-or-treating in 2014, a high price is paid when fire hazards are not properly considered.
And, finally, never place pumpkins containing a lit candle on uPVC or timber window sills. The bottom of the pumpkin can get very hot, and even scorch the surface if left for long periods. Rather than pose a risk of injury or property fire, why not use battery-operated or solar lights instead?
The risk of burglary increases at this time of year, partly due to the darker evenings and the fact that Halloween and Bonfire Night involve people being away from their homes. Thieves capitalise on this, and will target properties where they know the occupants are out trick-or-treating, or watching fireworks. The cover of darkness affords them more protection, as does the fact that they can wear a disguise and not be deemed suspicious!
Giving your home’s security a once-over before the end of the month is important, as you may not have noticed potential weak points. Pay close attention to your decorations, as they could provide a way in for opportunist thieves – you may have left a window open very slightly so that a wire can be fed through to power cable lights, for instance.
Theft of garden ornaments and furniture is also a risk, and may not be noticed immediately, partly due to the normality of strangers appearing on your property on the night of Halloween. Stow away anything you think may be at risk in a garage, or move them to the rear of your home if the area is more secure.
If you’d rather not be part of the Halloween traditions, turning your lights off and ‘lying low’ is not always the best course of action. Houses that are not lit up are favoured by burglars, as it’s a sure way to tell that no one is home. Whether you’re staying in or planning to get away, leave your lights on, or put them on a timer if you wish, and keep ground floor curtains and blinds closed. Leave a sign on your door or gatepost saying ‘no trick or treaters’ or similar, but do not advertise that you are not in! Many local police authorities have free printable posters available on their websites, or you can make your own.
Finally, ensure the rear of your home is protected. Inhabitants can be distracted by trick-or-treaters at the front of the home, while a thief breaks in from the back garden. While these kinds of intrusions are rare, they’re not unheard of. Fitting motion-sensor security lights and additional locks to the rear of your home, as well as ensuring your property perimeter has no easy access routes, can make a big difference.
Perilous lack of preparation
As human beings we cannot control everything and, despite your best efforts, you may find that your property has sustained damage. Therefore, as a precaution, it’s important to have your home insurance details nearby and easily accessible. You should notify your insurer as soon as possible after the damage has been noticed. However, where damage is the result of a crime or poses a real danger to others, the emergency services should always be your first port of call.
Photos of the damage can be useful for your insurer as they process your claim, and may help things to progress more quickly. Keep mobile phones charged and have torches to hand in case your power is affected.
If you will be away from home around this time, speak to neighbours beforehand to ensure they know that you’re not in. If possible, leave a key with a trusted neighbour who can keep an eye on things and clear up tell-tale signs of vacancy, such as post piling up next to your front door. Keep lights on a timer or arrange for them to be turned on while you are gone so that it looks as though someone is at home, and make sure the relevant people have a way to contact you should they need to, and vice versa. By laying down these foundations, you can go away without having to worry about what you’ll come back to.
Taking the time to check your home for the risks outlined above, and ensuring your insurance information is easy to find, can take a lot of stress out of this time of year. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of your home security, give our knowledgeable and friendly team a call on 0345 145 0130.