Thanksgiving is a time to gather and share blessings with family and friends, but extra people around the table often means increased risk for the homeowners. We’ve compiled a list of the most common Thanksgiving disasters so that you can avoid them.
1. Turkey fryer fires
Each year, more than 1,000 turkey fryer fires ruin Thanksgiving. That’s hardly a surprise considering you’re dropping a raw bird into a vat of hot oil. But the potential explosion from not drying or thawing your turkey sufficiently is only one of your risks. Turkey fryers can also start fires if you:
- Use too much oil.
- Knock over the fryer.
- Overheat the oil.
That said, deep-fried turkey is delicious and a staple at many Thanksgiving tables. So if you can’t pass it up, you may be able to avoid a turkey fryer fire by thawing the bird completely, keeping flammables a safe distance away, and never overfilling the fryer. While you’re at it, keep the children far from this Thanksgiving tradition. In fact, clear the area when you’re about to plop the bird in the pot.
If you do have a fire, use a fire extinguisher to put it out – never water. (In case we haven’t made this clear, water and oil don’t mix.) And then call your representative because your homeowners insurance can usually cover the damage.
2. Home thefts
According to reports from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), robberies and personal larceny increase by about 20 percent during the holiday season. While this statistic focuses on the December holidays, it all starts with Thanksgiving.
Thieves know that you’re buying presents and may have more cash on hand. Plus, people are away from their homes more during the holidays, and that gives criminals ample opportunity to break in or swipe packages off of porches.
You can protect yourself in a few different ways, such as:
- Getting a security system. This not only deters criminals, but it may earn you a discount on your homeowners insurance.
- Using lights with timers. You can give the impression that you’re home pretty easily with today’s smart technology.
- Canceling your mail. If you go away, even for a weekend, halt mail service or ask a friend to pick up your deliveries.
If your home is burglarized, your homeowners insurance may be able to provide coverage for what was stolen, including items that were in your car away from your home.
3. Food poisoning
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick from foodborne pathogens every year. And with the number of amateur chefs making full-blown feasts, Thanksgiving may be the national championship of food poisoning.
The most likely culprit of this Thanksgiving disaster is probably undercooked turkey. It can easily spread bacteria through much of your Thanksgiving dinner if you’re not careful about cross-contamination.
Luckily, the CDC provides a host of food safety tips to keep your guests safe, including:
- Thaw your turkey safely and completely. Turkeys generally take 24 hours per pound to defrost, so buy your bird early. And never leave it on the counter. The safest way is in your refrigerator, but you can also defrost it in a leak-proof bag in a sink full of cold water as long as you change the water every 30 minutes.
- Handle your turkey safely. You need to wash your hands thoroughly before handling raw turkey, and never let any utensil, cutting board, dish, or other surface that’s touched raw turkey come into contact with any other part of your meal, whether it’s cooked or not.
- Cook your defrosted turkey completely. To kill any bacteria in your turkey, make sure that it is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can check this by putting a cooking thermometer into the thickest part of your turkey’s breast, wing, and thigh.
4. Kitchen fires
Kitchen are busy places on Thanksgiving Day, and it shows in an increase for fire risk. US fire departments responded to approximately 2,400 residential fires on every Thanksgiving Day between 2014 and 2016. That’s more than double the average number of residential fires on all days.
Protect your home and your loved ones by:
- Watching where you set down towels and other flammable items.
- Never leaving food cooking on your stovetop unattended.
- Keeping a lid near your stove as you cook so you can put out a fire.
- Asking someone to keep children and pets out of the kitchen.
A fire in your home can be absolutely devastating, but your homeowners insurance can help you recover. Once you pay your deductible, your insurer helps pay to repair damaged parts of the kitchen and replace destroyed items like pans and appliances. And if you have to temporarily relocate, your loss of use coverage can help with additional living expenses.
5. Animal liability incidents
Of course, your furry friend is a total sweetheart! But sometimes our pets’ behavior can be unpredictable. The increase in guests and busy scenarios that normally accompany the holidays can often trigger unexpected reactions. In fact, dog bites are likely more common than you think - according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
To help keep your pet and your guests safe, work on socializing and training them before the big day. During the celebrations, make sure you know where they are at all times and monitor their body language so you can remove them from any stressful situations. And before any gatherings, make sure to check that your policy includes animal liability coverage in case the unexpected does happen!
6. Clogged drains and sewer backups
You may know the rules in your own home, but do your guests? Maybe they’re used to having a garbage disposal when you don’t have one, or maybe they think it’s ok to put a little grease down their drains sometimes. They might even occasionally flush things in the toilet that belong in the garbage can.
While a small drain mishap could make for a funny Thanksgiving story later, a big clog or backup could be a major headache. Luckily, if one of your guests makes a costly mistake, your home insurance may cover the damage with a water backup endorsement.
7. Guest injuries
Burns from turkey fryer fires aren’t the only injury risk at your gathering. Guests could slip on frosty walkways outside, trip over loose rugs, or they might even just tip over after a little too much wining and dining.
We know you’ll keep an eye on your loved ones to try to prevent any disasters, but accidents happen! Your home insurance can likely help pay the costs of medical expenses like ambulance rides and emergency room visits if someone gets hurt during the celebration.
With a little forethought and planning, you can avoid most Thanksgiving disasters. But if something bad does happen, your homeowners insurance policy may be able to help.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2021. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.