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Keeping Holiday Parties Merry & Bright

Posted By Ana Robic, Wednesday, December 12, 2018


According to a recent Chubb survey, 50% of homeowners will host a winter holiday party in their homes. These parties are a time for joy and merriment with family and friends.

Too often, however, homeowners overlook the holiday party-related risks that can put a damper on the festivities.

Here are a few things to discuss with clients to ensure their holiday parties go off without a hitch.

Deck the halls, carefully

The right ambiance can make or break a holiday party, so it’s understandable that clients want to go all-out on decorations. String lights and candles are often popular choices.

Yet, poor placement of such lights and candles can quickly cause a fire. The National Fire Prevention Association reports that from 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 840 home structure fires that began with decorations each year. Of these fires, candles were the leading cause (36%). Additionally, decorations that were too close to a heat source caused two of every five fires (42%). Unsurprisingly, such decoration-related fires peaked in December.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways clients can safely turn their holiday party décor visions into reality. It starts with one basic rule: Avoid candles with flames. Battery-operated candles will provide the same illusion at significantly less risk. Additionally:

  • Consider how many people are invited to the party, and where they are most likely to congregate. Knowing where there will be increased foot traffic means clients can adjust their decorating plans accordingly.
  • Carefully tend to live plants including garlands and Christmas trees so that they don’t dry out and become a fire hazard.
  • Don’t overload extension cords or try to hide them under rugs. Not only can they fray and be pinched by heavy furniture, but they can also create a trip-and-fall hazard.
  • Test smoke detectors and replace batteries, if necessary.

Hire the right help

The best hosts make throwing a party look easy, but appearances can be deceiving. There is often significant back-end coordination to ensure a party runs seamlessly. This includes coordinating with vendors, caterers, bartenders and valets.

Unfortunately, many clients sign a contract for hired help without first reviewing the details. It’s important to advise clients to read the fine print before signing, specifically looking to see whether the vendor is licensed, bonded and insured. Clients should ask their agent about the appropriate limits of insurance needed in order to best manage their risk when using service providers in their home.

Additionally, clients should determine whether the vendor has workers’ compensation insurance for any staff that will be on-site before, during and after the party. Failure to verify this coverage in the event a staff member is injured on the job could mean clients are held liable for damages.

There are additional safeguards agents and brokers should suggest to clients based on vendors’ specific roles and functions. Bartenders should be TIPS-certified and directed to avoid serving alcohol to minors, even if it is a family member or close friend.

Valets also require special safeguards. Clients need to ensure they’re protected against claims of both property damage and theft. Additionally, valets can’t park cars just anywhere. Rather, they need a parking plan that complies with local ordinances and necessary permits. Once guests turn over their keys, ensure clients’ driveways and walkways are well lit, especially in areas with high snowfall or that are prone to ice.

Extra duties for regular help

It’s also important that clients don’t overlook any assistance they regularly have in the home, including nannies, housekeepers and gardeners.

If clients will be asking these employees to perform additional tasks over and above their day-to-day responsibilities to prepare for the party, this could increase their liability exposures. Imagine, for instance, what would happen if a gardener fell off a ladder while hanging lights outside.

Therefore, it’s critical that agents and brokers work with clients ahead of the holiday season to ensure they have sufficient coverage in their employment practices liability policies.

Watch out for ‘uninvited guests’

Clients have likely put significant thought into their holiday party guest lists, but it’s possible they could end up with a few unwelcomed guests — and they might never know it!

In many cases, these guests take the form of cyber bad actors who capitalize on hosts’ poor cybersecurity practices. Consider that, according to Chubb’s recent cybersecurity survey, 41% of homeowners don’t have a password set on their Wi-Fi network. That means anyone can gain entry.

When inviting people over, it’s understandable that hosts want to give visitors and guests access to their password-enabled networks (which 34% of homeowners do), but the safest decision would be to create a separate guest Wi-Fi network, something just 18% of homeowners have in place.

Why the extra precaution? Because hackers are always looking for the next victim. Your clients could practice safe cybersecurity measures, but if their friends don’t adhere to the same practices, allowing them access to your clients’ primary networks could inadvertently expose your clients’ information.

The holidays are a special time of the year. Spread good tidings by helping your clients throw the best — and safest — parties.

Happy holidays!

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