Insurance Academy

A Few Holiday Risk Management Tips

By | December 18, 2019

This is a note to wish you a Happy Holidays. Before you think I’m backing away from my own personal love for and celebration of Christmas, let me list a few holidays (according to that I hope you’ll celebrate in some way.

  • December 21 – Look on the Bright Side day (keep on the sunny side…)
  • December 22 – Winter Solstice and Chanukah (Happy Chanukah)
  • December 23 – Festivus (for the rest of us…)
  • December 24 – National Egg Nog Day (nuff said)
  • December 25 – Merry Christmas

That’s enough of that. Seriously though, my hope for you is a wonderful, restful, joyous holiday season no matter what you’re celebrating.

While this time of year brings with it much joy and happiness, it also carries much risk and concern. Fear not. We have compiled some holiday risk management tips for you to help you survive your multiplied celebrations.

Property hazards

Let’s start this conversation with the hazards to your property. For many people, this is a time when we bring a little of the outdoors inside. That’s right. We’re talking about O Tannenbaum. If you bring a real tree in the house, the most likely risk you’re going to face is that it dries out. Just make sure that you keep water in the base. For those of us who go to tree lots and pick the tree, the first 24 hours after getting your tree home will require that you check and fill the water every six to eight hours. After that, check it daily and you should be fine.

Another risk you’re facing with a real tree is that you might bring something unexpected into your house. That’s right. A tree coming in from outside might bring some bugs in. As you get over that weird feeling you just had, understand that you’re not necessarily talking about a life changing risk, but you should be aware of the potential for bugs and deal with them responsibly. There are simple, effective, and safe ways to treat your tree just in case you’re concerned that you might invite a nest of praying mantis eggs into your home for Christmas.

Whether you have a real tree, or an artificial one, if you have cats, dogs, or children in your house, you have another risk. There’s something wonderfully attractive about a tree in the middle of the house to all of those small creatures. The cat may want to climb the tree just because it’s a tree. Some dogs like to lay under the tree. Some dogs like to play under the tree (even if they can’t fit under it). Some dogs are tall enough that they just stand near the tree and wag ornaments into right field. Then you have your littles. Littles love shiny ornaments. They also love to share them with the cat when they realize that the cat will play with them.

Your risk runs the gamut from ornaments knocked off and broken to the entire tree crashing through the window as the dog follows the cat up the tree. As for managing this risk, measure about 18-24 inches from the ground (depending on the size of your dog, cat, and littles), move all of the good ornaments above that line, use plastic ornaments below that line, and listen for the telltale bouncing of your ornaments. You could also go with the clean tree zone, where you put nothing below that 18-24-inch line.

As for the risk of your dog chasing the cat up the tree, your guess is as good as mine. We had to work hard to keep them away from the tree when they were younger. Now, they leave it alone and we’re happy about that.

Liability hazards

One of your biggest liability hazards will be your annual Christmas party. There’s really no telling what’s going to happen. Your risks are many and varied. Let’s start with the food you prepare. One bad shrimp can be the difference between a successful party and a big bill from Service Master after they come to clean your carpets.

If you want to mitigate the risks around food, you might hire a caterer, have a potluck, cancel your party, or go with highly processed foods that have more preservatives than nutrients. At least when you do that, some of your food snob friends might boycott the party and that might be a good thing.

Any time you invite people over to your house, you invite the potential for trouble. There are variables (some you can control and some you can’t) that can force a party to devolve from a wonderful celebration into a WWE steel cage match. Maybe you do something radical like having one party for one set of friends and another party for the other set. You could also cancel your party and attend someone else’s and let them deal with the risk. (We call that risk avoidance.)

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of the hazards you are likely to face this time of year. Here is a list of activities that increase your risks this season.

  • Shopping at big national retail chain stores. Sure they promise great deals, but when you and 1,000 of your closest friends and neighbors are all in line at the one open register with a live person, you’ll wish that you had shopped at the little shops down on Main street or Amazon.
  • Interstate travel. Yes. You need to visit people that you love and some that you tolerate, but interstates and holiday travel are a special kind of risk that you may not want to deal with. Think of it as somewhere between NASCAR and Mad Max with a few State Troopers out to make sure that the chaos doesn’t get too out of hand.
  • Traveling by plane. Let’s face it. You won’t need snow at the airport you want to go to. You just need to have a storm at a few key airports to take your travel schedule and turn it into a nightmare of crowded hotels and sleeping in airport chairs. (NOTE: I’m giving this advise as I actively plan to ignore it…)

We hope that this short primer on holiday risk management serves you well. This is an incomplete list and I’m sure you could think of a few more items of risk. For those who haven’t discovered it yet, this is my attempt at a little tongue in cheek humor before we all dive into our celebrations.

Up next? Holiday Policy Language for Christmas and New Year. See you then.

About Patrick Wraight

Patrick Wraight, CIC, CRM, AU, is director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. He can be reached at

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