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Summer Parties and Gatherings Near Water Present Risks

As millions of people across the U.S. plan to host parties or gatherings near water this summer, Trusted Choice® and the Big “I” caution hosts to be aware of the many risks and to be prepared in case of an accident.

Summer has arrived and for the next few months, many people will take advantage of the weather by hosting summer parties, testing the waters with sports and recreational watercraft, firing up outdoor grills and uncovering backyard swimming pools. Summer can be lots of fun, but it’s important to take a few precautionary steps to limit seasonal risks.

In a 2010 national survey, more than 43% of respondents, representing 98.6 million households, said they plan to host a party or any kind of social gathering over the summer. Of those, more than 32%, representing more than 32.1 million households, indicated that their event will be held in or around water (such as a pool, beach, boat, lake, etc.).

Offer your clients the following tips to help make their summer a happy and safe one:

Summer Parties: Alcohol and Social Host Liability
Asking guests to stop drinking at a summer party can be very awkward, but protecting their families and guests is more important.

  • SUI? No swimming under the influence. It’s best to avoid alcohol consumption when swimming. Always consume alcohol responsibly when swimming or entertaining at your pool.
  • Are you hosting illegally? Familiarize yourself with your state’s host liability laws, and to make sure you’re properly insured. Consider hosting your party at a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license, rather than in a home or office.
  • Swimming with strangers? Limit your guest list to those you know.
  • Fill their bellies. Provide filling food for guests and alternative non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Party like a teetotaler. Schedule entertainment or activities that do not involve alcohol.
  • Slumber party? Arrange transportation or overnight accommodations for those who should not drive.
  • Last call? Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is scheduled to end.
  • Just say no. Do not serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Bring in the professionals. Consider hiring an off-duty police officer to discreetly monitor guests’ sobriety or handle any alcohol-related problems as guests leave.
  • Don’t forget who is host. Stay alert, always remembering your responsibilities as a host.
  • Read the fine print. Review your insurance policy with your agent before the event to ensure that you have the proper liability coverage.

Pool Safety

  • Got fence? Always fence in a pool in your yard, and check your state and local ordinances for fence height requirements. Fencing should include a locked gate that should generally remain locked. Understand that as a pool owner, you are responsible and liable for anyone who comes on to your property and into your pool—even accidentally.
  • Put a lid on it. Always cover an empty or partially empty pool in the off-season. Serious injuries can result from children or others jumping or falling into a pool that is not full. When possible, consider an easily-retractable pool cover to seal anytime the pool is not in use, even in the summer.
  • Safety first. Never let children swim alone, and keep a properly-maintained supply of safety equipment in plain view of all swimmers, including life rings and other floats, lines and a first aid kit.
  • Schedule an annual physical for the pool. Maintain the pool properly. Check pools edges thoroughly at the beginning and end of each season to ensure that no tile, concrete or other material has come loose. Sun and other elements can damage these edges and pose a hazard to those who step or pull up on them. Always use a non-slip, quick-drying material to avoid injuries on walkways and other areas surrounding the pool.
  • Get certified. Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death among children under five. Have a family member take a safety course to become Red Cross certified to help in the event of an emergency.
  • Talk to your agent. Tell your insurance agent if you install a backyard pool. Some homeowners policies exclude pools, and extra coverage will be needed. Ensure that you have adequate liability insurance.

Grills and Outdoor Pits

  • “You can prevent fires.” Thoroughly clean gas grills at beginning of the season. Replace and maintain fire extinguishers near but not on the grill at all times. Never throw a match in a grill, especially after the gas has been on three seconds.
  • What to wear? Never wear a loose apron or loose clothing while grilling. Always wear shoes.
  • Press the button. Always use the grill’s starter button. If the starter is broken, do not use the grill.
  • Say no to rust. Cover the grill to avoid corrosion and rusting in both the controls and gas line. Rust can make grill controls hard to read and make the starter button difficult to depress. Consider using a grill with an automatic starter rather than a button starter.
  • Cut the fat. Avoid cooking foods with a high fat content which can produce high flames. Always thoroughly cook food to a safe temperature.
  • Is it in the book? Never throw away a grill instructions or owner’s manual. Follow manufacturer’s directions carefully.
  • That’s hot. Outdoor fire pits are often low to the ground and could be alluring to children. Make sure to keep children away even long after the fire has been extinguished. Fire pits can hold heat for several hours after the flames are gone.



  • Understand your liability and risks. The homeowners policy is not designed to cover significant watercraft exposures and consumers should contact their agent to see if coverage can be added or if they need a separate watercraft policy that fully covers damage to the boat, liability and uninsured boaters.
  • Is that a rental? Many people rent boats. Even with a watercraft policy, be aware that there may be no coverage for rentals.
  • Don’t be a castaway. Never use a boat that is not equipped with fully operational safety equipment onboard. At a minimum, any boat should contain life preservers for all occupants, a well-stocked first aid kit, powerful flashlight, two-way VHF radio, fire extinguisher, flare kit and a local area water chart. Large boats should also contain additional lines of varied size and an inflatable lifeboat.
  • There ISN’T always room for one more. Never exceed the passenger capacity recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Keep the instructions. Always keep all owners’ manuals onboard.
  • Hit the books. Take a boat safety and operations course, sponsored in many communities by the U.S. Power Squadron or the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Drinking and boating. Know the law and your limits when it comes to drinking aboard any watercraft.

Jet skis

  • They’re fun, but not toys. Jet skis and other similar recreational water vehicles can be very dangerous and they can require separate insurance policies. Owners should also consult their insurance agent to make sure they have adequate liability coverage to protect them, especially if they regularly ride tandem or if they injure others in an accident.
  • Sorry kids. Children should never ride a jet ski.
  • Look up at the clouds. Never use a jet ski in foul weather. Strictly follow all safety guidelines and make sure anyone driving the vehicle knows exactly how to operate it and shut it off.
  • No risky business. Take care and understand the risks in storing and transporting jet skis. Standard homeowners and auto policies will not cover theft of the water vehicle from a trailer.
  • Renting? Use caution when renting a jet ski and know your responsibilities. Always consult an agent to fully understand liability exposure and coverage in this situation.

Other/general driving/vehicle tips

  • Shades are cool. Summer sun glare is an issue for all drivers of any kind of vehicle, and particularly for senior citizens whose eyes and/or prescription glasses can’t easily accommodate changes in light. Unexpected glare can cause serious accidents. Be prepared by always keeping glasses, visors or other sun shields in your vehicle, especially if traveling near or on the water.
  • Don’t make it your last call. Never operate any vehicle under the influence of alcohol, certain prescription drugs or fatigue. Obey all traffic laws and maintain safe driving habits.
  • Avoid the tow truck. Make sure you and your party guests follow all parking rules and ordinances, especially in residential neighborhoods.