Holiday festivals are a tradition for families across the globe—giant snowmen, motion sensor reindeer, and of course, beautiful displays of lights. The events just wouldn’t be the same without decorations and elaborate lighting displays.
Interestingly, lighting displays predate the invention of electricity. The practice of attaching candles to Christmas trees with melted wax originated in the 1700s in Europe. It wasn’t until 1882 that the first Christmas tree with electric lights was showcased in New York City. Now, lighting displays are standard holiday decorations in homes and festivals across the world.
And yet, as widespread as the practice of holiday lighting is, it’s not without risks. We have come a long way from open flame candles, but holiday decorations still cause injuries. According to research by the Nation Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), between 2013-2017, an average of about 780 fires each year started with holiday displays and decorations.
The responsibility of keeping festival goers safe lies with festival organizers. Assessing risks, selecting appropriate lights and equipment, hiring qualified contractors to install displays, and selecting the appropriate festival insurance policy should all be concerns of organizers.
Selecting safe lighting
Lighting safety has come a long way, from candles to incandescent bulbs to the adoption of LED lighting in the 21st century. LED light strings run cooler and consume much less energy than incandescent lights, but there are still other points to consider when selecting holiday lights.
Lighting displays should be appropriately labeled. All lighting for holiday festivals should be tested for UL/ANSI 588, which would be listed on the label. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations state that these types of lights are allowed to remain up for a maximum of 90 days. Don’t leave lights up for longer than that unless you have specially certified year-round display lights.
Decorating best practices
After you’ve selected appropriate lighting, it’s essential to keep these decorating best practices in mind for safety:
- When using ladders, make sure you have a second person to stabilize the base of the ladder.
- Inspect light strings for defective bulbs. Replace faulty bulbs and strings with new, appropriate bulbs.
- Test lighting displays before hanging to make sure breakers don’t trip.
- Never place extension cords or light strings across walkways without an appropriate device to prevent tripping, such as a cable trough.
- Don’t hang lights on metal or ornamental metal trees to reduce the chance of shock.
- Double-check your labels. Don’t hang outdoor lights indoors or vice versa.
- Don’t ever pull or tug on a light string – this causes stress to internal wiring and external connections, leading to wire fraying or plug damage (and ultimately fire hazards).
- Don’t leave lighting displays on all the time and use timers to turn off displays when no one is present.
- Ensure that outdoor outlets are GFCI-protected (ground fault circuit interrupter). GFCI outlets are designed to kill the power to the entire circuit in the event of a power surge or overload. Simply check if the outlet has “TEST” and “RESET” buttons between the plug receptacles. If they aren’t GFCI protected, you can purchase a portable GFCI from a hardware store or have new GFCI outlets installed by a certified electrician.
- When it’s time to take down the decorations, properly pack and store all reusable decorations in a safe, dry space. Use plastic boxes or bags for storage over cardboard which can rot over time or be susceptible to rodent or insect nests.
Another way to ensure to safety of the public, especially when purchasing festival insurance, is to work with certified contractors.
Selecting qualified contractors
Contractors can help with many of the issues involved with holiday decorations, such as installation and electricity management. There are several important factors to keep in mind while selecting a qualified contractor to install holiday displays.
- Ask any contractors in your consideration to provide proof of their experience and qualifications.
- Technicians should also provide their risk assessments of the job in writing and any other pertinent safety documents, such as proof that their equipment has been tested regularly.
If a contractor balks at these requests, move on and find someone else. Safety is the top priority for any public event, and contractors willing to cut corners will only cause headaches down the road. Securing proper documentation will also serve as evidence of due diligence for any holiday festival insurance you purchase and make it easier to file a claim, should the worst happen.
Festival insurance: the last line of protection
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there is an average of 200 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday season. No matter how thorough the planning or how experienced the contractors are, accidents can and do happen. Even with every precaution taken, accidents do happen. Insurance coverage will protect your event from any mishap.
That’s why it’s vital to protect your event with festival insurance.
Festival insurance is the best way to ensure that your event is protected if an accident does occur. McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance specializes in insuring risk in the amusement and entertainment industry. We offer essential insurance for all owners and operators, including general and excess liability insurance, workers’ compensation, and property insurance.
Contact us today to ensure your event is protected in the case of an accident.