When summer turns to fall, children and adults alike look forward to the ghoulish delights of Halloween. But before you decorate to the hilt and invite everyone over for a monster mash, there are some safety concerns you need to address. Halloween decorations and parties can prove to be home insurance risks to your house, as well as to your personal liability. As you begin the planning process for your Halloween decorations, try to always keep your home insurance risks in mind. Will your decorations potentially damage your home, generating a property damage claim? And could your decorations pose a hazard to your guests and trick-or-treaters? If so, you may end up with a personal liability claim.
So, how do you decorate without causing damage? First and foremost, think about the possibility of fire in your decorations. Last year, ABC News in Raleigh-Durham, N.C presented the story of a house fire potentially started by the candle in a pumpkin. Instead of using wax candles, consider lighting your jack-o-lanterns with glow sticks or battery-operated candles. Fire is also a risk with the lights you use to string around the house for spooky effects. Make sure you take all the necessary precautions to prevent fires, such as keeping flammable objects away from open flames and never leaving the lights on when they are unattended.
When putting up your decorations, keep in mind that Halloween parties and trick-or-treaters tend to visit your home in the evenings. The darkness increases the risk of people tripping or falling, especially if there are obstructions that are not easily visible. Added to the darkness is the fact that your visitors may be in costumes that obstruct their vision or impede their ability to move as well as they normally would, and you have a recipe for disaster. Luckily, you don’t have to completely forgo dark and spooky effects to have a safe environment. Strategically placed lights can enhance the effects you are trying to achieve, and glow-in-the-dark paint and tape or small reflectors on the ground can go a long way to enhance visibility without detracting from your decorations.
If you plan on throwing a wild party, consider the liability of serving alcohol to your guests. Depending on local laws, you might be subject to what’s known as “host liquor liability,” where if one of your guests subsequently causes damage or injury after drinking at your home, you could be found liable. Certainly the best way to avoid this liability is to not serve alcohol, but if that’s not an option, make sure you do so responsibly and do not allow guests who have been drinking to drive afterwards. You need to review your insurance policy in advance of your party to see if it covers any host liquor liability.
Halloween also brings out the pranksters in every neighborhood. If your decorations are of significant value, make sure you review your home insurance policy for sufficient coverage. It’s not unheard of for vandals to damage or destroy decorations, or worse, steal them from your front lawn. If any of your decorations or party equipment is rented, you will be financially responsible for their loss or damage. If you aren’t properly insured, that will definitely be a trick instead of a treat on Halloween.