Halloween is one of the nation's most popular holidays. We love the annual ritual of scaring ourselves and our favorite kids silly, all in the spirit of good-natured fun. But as much fun as it can be, when you tally up the associated risks to kids, pets and property, the holiday can truly earn its nickname, "fright night."
Unfortunately, kids experience a lot of injuries at Halloween. While the media can play up the dangers of poisoned candy and predators, the most common injuries to kids at Halloween are more pedestrian: eye injuries, burns, and being hit by cars. Other Halloween dangers include an increase in fatalities related to driving while under the influence; a high rate of fires, vandalism, and property crimes; and a spike in incidents of animal cruelty. For the property owner, there's a veritable witches' brew of liability issues. Any injuries that occur on your property can be considered your liability - whether it's a little Cinderella who trips on her gown or a vandal who breaks his leg while egging your house. If partygoers drink too much alcohol while at your house, you may be held liable for any injuries that occur when they drive home. And if your teen's Halloween "pranks" result in any property damage, you might have parental liability for the cost of that damage, depending on your state law. Other risks you may encounter include vandalism to your home or your auto and home fires triggered by candles and decorations or overloaded electrical outlets.
Most people enjoy a fun, safe Halloween and odds are in your favor that you will too. But there are simple steps you can and should take to minimize your risk and keep things safe. One thing you can do in advance is to check with your insurance agent to be sure your homeowners or rental insurance is up to date and that you have adequate protection. Find out your deductible (how much you have to pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in) and the extent of your liability coverage.
Keeping kids safe:
- Equip kids with flashlights. Add day-glo or illuminating trim on their costumes.
- Make sure costumes are fire-safe and flame-resistant.
- Ensure costumes don't impair vision or present a tripping hazard.
- Masks can limit visibility - colorful face paints are a cute, creative, and safer alternative.
- Make sure kids are dressed warmly enough and have comfortable, non-slip footwear.
- Costume accessories and props should be short , pliable, and soft - no hard, long, pointy, or sharp objects
- Inspect all candy before kids eat it. Be alert for choking hazards and watch for anything that is loose or unwrapped.
- Don't let kids walk while eating candy on a stick - very dangerous if they trip.
- Don't let kids eat homemade treats unless they were made by someone you know very well
- Stick to familiar neighborhoods and familiar houses
- Kids shouldn't enter any homes unless they know the neighbors well
- Kids without adults should keep in groups
- Walk on sidewalks. Complete one side of the street, cross carefully, and complete the other side.
- Use cross walks and crossing lights whenever possible.
- Drive with great caution over the weekend, particularly after dark - excited little goblins may dart out from anywhere.
Other safety matters
- When decorating, avoid candles - use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
- Take care not to overload electrical circuits with lights.
- Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
- Keep porches and walkways well lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards; Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway.
- Don't forget about your pets - they could be upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish. Keep them inside and away from the door so they don't frighten or nip at your guests.
- Be careful not to let your pets eat candy, which can be toxic to them.
- Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
- Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.
Halloween vandalism can range from "mild" pranks to more serious and willful property damage. A well-lit house and motion-activated lights may help to protect your property. If you have a garage, keep you car locked up. If you don't, you might want to check your car before bed or very early in the morning - that way, if your car has experienced any "mischief" such as a dousing of shaving cream, silly string, eggs, or other food matter, you may be able to hose it away before the sun bakes it in. Some of these substances can cause scratches or dents; others can be corrosive to your paint. Pressurized water from your hose is your best clean-up ally.
Call your agent
If you should suffer any damage to your property or have any accidents during Halloween weekend, file a claim as soon as possible to get the claim process in motion. Be ready with the details of where and when the event occurred, along with the names and addresses of any injured parties or witnesses to the event. If there is damage to your property, report it to the police, take photos, and record the details so you won't forget them later.
Other helpful resources
Safe and scary: Tips for home decorating and costumes
Tricks for making your Halloween party safe
Driver safety tips for Halloween Eve
Halloween Car Cleanup Guide - how to remove eggs, shaving cream, silly string, and more.