Holiday Hosting Tips To Be Safe, Insurance If You’re Sorry

Holiday Hosting Tips To Be Safe, Insurance If You’re Sorry

Barbara Marquand | 12/23/2019

Most holiday cooking mishaps make good stories later. Remember the time you thought a clove of garlic meant the entire bulb?

But true cooking disasters, such as deep-fried turkey fires or sickened guests, aren’t so funny.

Here’s how insurance works when things go sour, plus tips to help us stay safe.

Distracted cooking: recipe for disaster

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the US, according to the National Fire Protection Association. And the holidays are the peak season for them, says Scott Humphrey, vice president of risk control for Travelers Insurance Company.

According to Travelers claim data from 2012 to 2016, home fire claims increased 12%, on average, during the week from Christmas to New Year’s Eve compared to the typical week, he says.

“Especially during the holidays, when preparing for a party, we’re multitasking and we sometimes forget about safety.”

Homeowners insurance covers structural damage, and both Home and Renters insurance policies cover damage to belongings, such as furniture and clothing. They also cover additional living expenses, such as hotel bills, if the home is uninhabitable while it’s undergoing repair.


  • Watch what you’re cooking. “That’s often met with, ‘Gee, that’s so obvious,’” Humphrey says. But unattended cooking is the primary cause of kitchen fires. “Don’t start cooking and then go decorate the Christmas tree,” he says. Consider turning on your timer alert to help bring your attention back to your stove and the cooking.
  • Keep the cooking area free of flammable items — remember to roll up loose sleeves and keep dish rags away — and wipe up grease spills right away.
  • If a fire starts in the oven, keep the oven door closed and turn off the heat - the lack of oxygen should soon extinguish the flames. If a fire starts on the stovetop, consider smothering the flames with a pot lid. Don’t carry a flaming pan away from the stove as severe burns could occur, Humphrey says. If these steps aren't enough to extinguish the flames, try your fire extinguisher or evacuate and call 911.  Be sure you have the type of fire extinguisher that works on grease fires (Class B) now, before the festive cooking begins. 
  • Deep-frying a turkey? Follow the directions carefully, Humphrey says, and fry it outside and keep the fryer away from the house, deck, garage and other structures.

Too much holiday cheer: guests over-imbibe

Wherever there's eating, there's bound to be drinking and alcoholic beverages. If a guest overindulges at your home, drives away and causes an auto accident, sadly you could face legal consequences. Although you wouldn’t be held responsible for the drunken driver’s injuries, depending on state laws you could be held legally liable for injuries to others involved in the accident, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Your Homeowners insurance coverage usually includes liquor liability coverage, which would pay your legal costs and jury award against you up to the policy limits if an accident victim(s) sued you. The limits are typically $300,000 to $500,000, the institute says. Additional coverage would be provided by your Umbrella Liability policy if you have one.  Check also your policy for exclusions, limits and conditions.


  • “Have a plan for how your guests will get home if you’re serving alcohol,” Holland says. That might include arranging taxis, Uber or inviting folks to stay overnight.
  • Before the party, consider discussing with your guests who the designated drivers will be, and offer the drivers perks like special desserts, Holland says.
  • Serve plenty of food, and offer non-alcoholic beverages.

A chef’s worst nightmare: food poisoning

It’s one thing when people don’t like your cooking, but it’s another if they get sick from it. The Medical Payments coverage under your Homeowners insurance policy should pay guests' medical expenses, up to the policy’s limits, if they got sick or injured in your home including food poisoning from your cooking.  The limits are typically between $1,000 and $5,000 per person.

Fortunately, Homeowners and Renters insurance policies also include Liability coverage, which would pay your defense costs and any court awards against you if your guest were to sue you. Liability limits usually start around $300,000 per incident. You might be able to increase your Liability coverage, depending on your carrier, by paying a little extra in premium.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises:

  • Wash your hands after handling raw meat or eggs and unwashed vegetables, and before and after preparing food, eating or drinking.
  • Use pasteurized eggs for eggnog and other recipes that call for raw eggs.
  • Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours.
  • Thaw meat safely in the refrigerator or in cold water that’s changed every 30 minutes — never at room temperature.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure foods are fully cooked.

At Massey, Clark, Fischer we are most happy to help you review your current policies to help make sure “you are covered” - just call us at your earliest convenience.


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