Halloween Tricks, Pranks and Accidents: Are You Covered?

By Gail Balfour
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Halloween may be spooky, but a pandemic is even scarier. Because of the infectious nature of COVID-19 and the steadily rising numbers of cases, any trick-or-treating this year will require some inventiveness, extra safety precautions, or replaced altogether in favour of safer activities.

It partly depends on which area of Canada you live in, and whether or not it’s considered a “hot spot” for infection rates. For those living in hot spots (like Toronto), they are urged to avoid interacting with anyone outside of their households. That includes trick-or-treating for kids and large house parties with family and friends. So far, there is no law prohibiting it, meaning people can’t be ticketed for ignoring the recommendation.

In Alberta, the government says trick-or-treating can still be done safely. Their guidelines recommend:

  • Don't go trick-or-treating (or hand out candy) if feeling ill, even if symptoms are minor
  • Choose costumes that allow a non-medical mask to be worn underneath
  • Minimize contact with others: stay with your group, and stay two metres apart
  • Avoid touching doorbells or railings, use hand sanitizer after touching surfaces
  • Wash hands and disinfect packages before eating candy
  • Find creative ways to maintain distance from trick-or-treaters such as handing out treats from driveways or lawns, if weather permits
  • Use tongs, build a candy slide or use other non-touch delivery methods

Many experts are concerned that scaled-back festivities are yet another blow to normal life. Everyone is going to have to find their comfort level, and there are many other ways to celebrate Halloween besides trick-or-treating.

Halloween Is Not Dead: Creative Ways to Celebrate

According to a new Abacus Data survey of Canadian adults commissioned by Food, Health and Consumer Products and the Retail Council of Canada, eight in 10 Canadian parents plan to celebrate the spooky season with their children in some way this year.

They, along with other organizations, have come up with some creative ideas on how to celebrate the spooky season safely, including:

  • Set up a treat hunt around your home
  • Have fun with decorations – inside and outside of your home
  • Host a virtual party – set up video chats to show off your costumes
  • Organize a neighbourhood decorating contest
  • Throw a horror movie night with family
  • Do in-home trick-or-treating with family. Decorate each room differently

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Keeping Your Home Safe from Tricksters and Treaters Alike

A lot of accidents can be avoided by ensuring youngsters have a clear path to your home with no wires to trip over, adequate lighting, and no open flames. With all the excited kids running to your door, what happens if one trips and falls on your property? Fortunately, most home insurance policies will cover you if someone accidentally injures themselves in this way.

When decorating, place streamers, hay, fabric and paper ornaments far away from tea lights and pillar candles. If you use decorative lights, try not to overload your electrical outlets with too many plug-ins.

A Word on Safe Driving

According to Consumer Reports, Halloween is one of the deadliest days of the year for pedestrians, especially children. It can be a perfect storm of risk because it involves darkness and a significant increase in pedestrian traffic. Children often behave unpredictably and can be difficult to see after dark. Consider these tips:

  • Drive slowly in and around neighbourhoods and on residential streets
  • Watch for children who may dart out into the street, and always yield to pedestrians
  • If you see one child, this means there are likely more ready to cross
  • Pullover at safe locations to let children exit at the curb and away from traffic
  • Don't use a cellphone or other mobile device while driving

Watch Out for Mischief and Protect Yourself with the Right Coverage

Thankfully, Halloween is usually about the treat and not the trick, but unfortunately, hijinks and accidents happen. It can be a big night of the year for car thefts, pranks, and unplanned fires. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious near you and call the police if you do see something unusual.

With any luck, a homeowner will never experience vandalism on their property; but Halloween often brings out the most ghoulish behaviour in some people. Data suggests there is a 24% increase in crime-related insurance claims on Halloween with burglaries and property damage leading the way. Check your policy to ensure you are covered for vandalism.

Crime-Proof Your House

A vacated house is more likely to be broken into on Halloween. That is because neighbours and others won’t think twice about seeing someone sleuthing around your yard. If you don’t plan on being home on Halloween, take extra precautions to protect your house from a break-in. To keep criminals and trick-or-treaters away, post a sign saying “Sorry, All Out of Candy” out front while keeping exterior and interior lights shining bright.

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Keep Your Car Out of Harm’s Way

Vandalism to vehicles nearly doubles on Halloween. If you have an indoor garage, park your car inside it instead of on the road. If your vehicle is vandalized (say your paint job is ruined) you will also be covered, but only if your car insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage is optional, and not everyone has it, but if you do, it provides benefits for situations other than a collision. It can replace broken glass, cover the costs to repair damages from vandalism or fire, and replace your car if it is stolen and not recovered.

Your Jack-o'-Lantern Starts a Fire

Jack-o'-lanterns are usually a reasonably safe Halloween decoration, but accidents do happen. If your jack-o'-lantern turns fiendish and causes a fire, your home insurance may cover any damage caused. Instead of using a candle to light up your jack-o’-lantern, use battery powered tea lights.

A Halloween Party Guest Drinks Too Much

So your outdoor Halloween party is a hit — but what about that guest who’s over-indulged and wants to drive? The answer is to cut them off from alcohol and stop them from getting behind the wheel. If you’re the host, you could be held legally responsible if you continue serving alcohol to someone who has had too much to drink and gets behind the wheel.

Have a Happy (and Claim-Free) Halloween!

It’s a magical time of year, but the risk of damage and injury to yourself and others can be higher at Halloween. Use common sense to avoid an incident and call your insurance provider to make sure you have the coverage against vandalism and liability you need to stay scare-free this holiday.

There may not be a more important time of the year to have your broker review your home insurance and car insurance policies to ensure that you’re covered for all risks.