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Winter Brings Added Safety Hazards and Increased Fire Danger.

Decorators of Rhode Island's Newport Mansions Take Precaution

NOVATO, Calif. -- With winter comes unpredictable weather, holiday decorations and large crowds. As homes receive face lifts complete with poinsettias and lights, new hazards and concerns arise. This is especially true for three of the Newport Mansions in Rhode Island, former homes of turn-of-the century aristocrats. However, you don't have to be an Astor or Vanderbilt to be prepared for winter this year.

While the mansions, which were built in the late 19th century, are open to the public year-round as museums, the three that are decorated and open over the holidays become hot spots for over 90,000 visitors between November 18 and January 1.

Now under the ownership of the Preservation Society of Newport County, The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are decked out for the holidays in festive decoration and splendor for all to enjoy.

"Christmas in Newport is a popular time of year for visitors, and so we want to give them something beautiful to see that fits with the holiday spirit," said Andrea Carneiro, communications manager for the Preservation Society.

As with any home, risk management issues such as fire and tree safety, must be taken into perspective as the holiday season is in full swing. The Newport mansions are provided with insurance coverage and risk management services from Fireman's Fund Insurance Company.

"Winter maintenance and safety precautions in the home are important, because, when taken seriously, this allows homeowners to sit back and relax for the remainder of the holidays," said Christopher Heidrick, vice president personal insurance, Fireman's Fund[R].

The preparation for the holiday season is a year-round event for the Preservation Society, with a staff that begins preparing for the following year immediately after Christmas. Approximately 2,500 poinsettias, thousands of tree lights, 1,000 lilies, dozens of potted plants, 20 wreaths, 850 yards of fresh garland, and hundreds of roses, carnations and other flowers are used to decorate the mansions. Thousands of additional decorations and ornaments are also used based on period relevancy to the houses.

"Although the houses were never actually decorated for Christmas in their heyday, since they were all summer cottages, we decorate them today in a period-relevant style," Carneiro said.

The decorating of the houses takes place during the first two weeks of November. About 20 large and small artificial trees are installed in the houses, as no live trees are allowed inside. One live tree is situated in front of each house, however, and is usually 15-25 feet tall and comes from local donors. Approximately 400 ornaments are used on the largest trees.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, residential fires increase in the winter, and so additional precautions should be made, whether it is in the case of a single-family home, or a mansion. To ensure that a home is sufficiently prepared for a possible fire, homeowners should check fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace as necessary. Heating systems should also be checked, with special attention paid to the filter, pilot light and burners in systems fueled by gas or oil. Fireplaces, water and space heaters, boilers, and wood-burning stoves should be serviced every year.

Fires caused by candles increase during the holiday season, which is why artificial candles are used in the Newport Mansions. "If real candles are requested for a private event in the mansions, they must be in a container with the flame at least 1 inch below the top of the container," Carneiro said. The fireplaces in the mansion are non-working and are never lit.

Security of the mansions is a constant concern, as their collections include priceless furniture, textiles, wall coverings and trims, porcelain, decorative accessories, mirrors and lamps. Heightened security is added to the dining rooms during the holiday season, when family china is taken out and displayed.

The Preservation Society is also prepared for accidents. "Most decorations and trees are behind ropes where they can't be reached or touched by visitors, who might knock them over," Carneiro said.

Security, weather hazards and fire safety are all concerns, regardless of the size of the home, and basic maintenance steps can be taken to ensure that the holidays come and go without a hitch.

According to Heidrick, homeowners should winterize both the inside and outside of their homes to ensure safety and maximum functionality. Gutters should be cleaned, the roof inspected for damaged or loose shingles, exterior walls and window sills should be checked for damage, steps and handrails should be maintained to prevent injuries, and outdoor sprinkler systems and faucets should be shut down.

When the season comes to an end, the Preservation Society, like all homeowners, must engage in holiday clean up. Decorations are taken down during the first week after New Years Day. Most of the flowers and plants are composted and the other decorations are packed up and stored in the attics and basements of the mansions.

Thanks to the professional preparation by the Preservation Society, the mansions are currently open for holiday tours. For more information, visit: www.newportmansions.org.

Fireman's Fund Insurance Company is a premier property and casualty insurance company providing personal, commercial and specialty insurance products nationwide. Fireman's Fund is a member of the Allianz Group (NYSE: AZ), one of the world's largest providers of property and casualty insurance and other financial services. For additional information, visit www.firemansfund.com.

[c] 2006 Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, Novato, CA 94998
COPYRIGHT 2006 Business Wire
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Dec 13, 2006
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