Season’s warnings

But it’s not just homes that are at risk – the same dangers exist for businesses, especially those which close for a few days leaving premises unmonitored.

So what are the main seasonal risks for SMEs, and what precautions should small businesses take to ensure their premises are safe while they’re taking a well earned break over the festive period?

Don’t Be A Fire Statistic
According to the National Fire Prevention Agency, Christmas trees, often the first item to catch fire, cause around 250 reported home fires each year (2003-2007). Holiday lights are also culprits, causing around 170 fires annually.

Retailers and other businesses with Christmas trees should take heed. Alissa Vanbrunt, in charge of claims at business insurance comparator SimplyBusiness.co.uk, points out: “Business owners need to be extra careful. Switch off all festive lighting when closing down the premises over Christmas. Home-based business owners should also take precautions.  Surely a few fairy lights aren’t worth risking your business for.”

Check that your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard BS EN 60598 and ideally, invest in some LED lights – these do not heat up so much. Avoid overloading sockets and always turn the power to the sockets off when lights are not in use. Turn off Christmas lights whenever you leave the building, especially before everyone disappears for the festive period.

Prevent Christmas Break-ins
According to insurance claim experts Cunningham Lindsey, 1 in 10 households fall victim to burglars over the festive period, as homeowners and tenants leave to visit friends and family during the holiday.

Alissa Vanbrunt warns: “Christmas really can be a time of good cheer for burglars. Properties are left unguarded, often full of expensive gifts. The average value of a household’s possessions increasing by £670 at this time of year.”

Home-based business owners should be especially careful as they will undoubtedly be leaving valuable equipment and data at risk in addition to all their own possessions.

So what can be done to prevent theft? A few basics can help. Remember to close and lock all windows and doors before leaving the office or house, leave a light on if away for short periods, or invest in a timer for a light in one or more rooms. Ask neighbours to keep an eye on your premises or home if they are around.

Cold Snaps Cause Floods
Every Winter, warnings are issued about the damage that can be caused by pipes freezing, and with two weeks of sub-zero temperatures approaching, this is a real risk over the coming Christmas holiday.

Businesses should remember this can happen to them too. According to Cunningham Lindsey, there are around 200,000 burst pipe claims each year, a sizeable proportion of which are down to cold weather.

Alissa Vanbrunt comments: “If you are away from your home or business premises, you might turn off the heating to save money. Some businesses shut turn off all utilities as standard during the Christmas holiday when staff are away. However this can leave a premises vulnerable to the cold. It’s important to be aware of the weather forecasts and to be ready for freezing weather if it strikes.”

The Cold Weather Code advises the following action to prevent frozen pipes:

  1. Leave your heating on a timer so it warms the property daily while you go away
  2. Repair any dripping taps in advance
  3. If the weather does freeze, visit the property regularly (or ask someone else to) to make sure no pipes have frozen. If they have – catch them before they defrost and cause a flood.

Ensuring you take these risks into consideration, and putting the necessary measures in place to protect your business, will mean that you can rest assured that your premises are safe this Christmas.

For more information on protecting your business, visit: www.SimplyBusiness.co.uk

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