From Santa Hollywood

Insight into Christmas, the Holidays and the World of Santa Claus

Protecting Santa Claus – Reducing your Liability

posted by SantaTim On October - 5 - 2012 Comments Off on Protecting Santa Claus – Reducing your Liability

Protecting Santa Clause – Reducing your Liability

(This is the third in a three part series on Protecting Santa Claus)

Yesterday I reviewed the need for insurance.   There are some Santas and Party Entertainers, who question the idea of having liability insurance.  Many of these performers have been doing this for years and don’t see any need to have to pay for insurance.

But, if you have one accident, someone could sue you and you could lose everything, your home, your savings, everything?

Yes it is difficult to understand the reasoning for having insurance.  But in today’s Society, it has become more apparent that should an accident occur, someone is going to want compensation, or to at least have the damages paid for.

The Malls and Photo companies have had business liability insurance for years.  It is standard business practice.   And some are now also requiring Workman’s Comp Insurance.

But years ago, Santas, Clowns, Magicians and other entertainers often did not have any type of coverage. One Group, the Shriners, did extend their insurance coverage to their members when they were performing.  This was to protect the members when they volunteered and performed at hostpitals and in local parades.

In the late 1980’s the Shrine organization decided that each individual Shrine Clown or entertainer needed to have his own policy.   All Fellerman, a fellow shriner and an insurance broker, started a special insurance program.  Eventually that insurance company – Speciality Insurance Agency, provides coverage to Clowns, magicians, face painters, jugglers and even Santa Claus.

And today,  there are a variety of companies that insure not only small entertainers, like clowns, magicians and Santas, but also concerts, festivals and larger events.

You are always open to being sued by someone should anything happen.  A child slips off you knee, or trips over your boots.  If there is an injury, the parent or parents, may want to have you pay for damages, duress, etc.

Here are some true scenarios:

A young child received a candy cane from Santa.  He loves the candy and licks the candy cane into a sharp point.  Then while continuing to suck on the candy, is bumped by someone, cuts his tongue and punctures the roof of his mouth.  The damages were not serious, but the Santa was held liable because he purchased the candy and gave it to the child.  The parent sued for emergency room fees, shock and duress and won.

And would you believe that one child while walking past a photo set tripped over another child and Santa was sued for being an “Attractive Nuisance.”  Fortunately this lawsuit was considered frivolous, but it still cost Santa hundreds if not thousands in legal fees to have the case dismissed.

So, general liability insurance has become a standard for all party and event entertainers.  It is there to protect you, should something happen and someone decide to seek damages or even sue you.

To go further, here are some suggestions on how to limit your liability and protect yourself:

Do not hand out or give anything away that could harm a child.   Candy Canes and other types of Candy are a tradition with the holidays.  However, as mentioned above you could have an accident should a child poke himself, or even choke on a small piece of candy.

Pencils with points or candy canes that can be sucked into a point are also not advisable as they can create puncture wounds.

Child care professionals suggest that you should never give away small items.  Especially to children three and under.  This includes, bells, erasers, etc. These items seem to quickly find their way into a child’s mouth.  An easy way to know if an item is too small is to use the “paper tube” test.  It an item will fit down inside a paper towel tube, it could also easily be swallowed by a child.  So small items are out!

If your client buys or supplies you with items to give out, remember the above and be careful with small children.

As an alternative, give away stickers, tattoos(water based), wrist bands, or trading cards.  And because children are always being told not to accept anything from a stranger, the proper etiquette for giving something to a child is to hand it to the parent first for approval

I learned this a few years ago and switched to giving out trading cards.   Since then many Santas have done the same, giving out trading cards, stickers, or special business cards.

Any toys, crayons or items that are not rated non-toxic, should not be handed out.

Face painting and using the same brushes on different children is not healthy.

Finally, unless you as sitting in the Santa Chair and giving each child a coloring book or toy, never surprise a parent or catch them off guard and hand something directly to a child.  This is especially true in the off season or when you are not performing or appearing as Santa.

It is wise, and also very polite and courteous,  to always ask the parent before giving a child something.  I suggest that you give the items to the parent and let the parent decide.   I even do this with my trading cards.

And besides, the children are always told not to accept anything from a stranger, and until the parent accepts you, Santa is still a stranger in some ways.  Think about it.

Should you have any question on the above advice, feel free to contact me: Santa@RealSantas.com .

 

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Protecting Santa Claus – The Need for Insurance

posted by SantaTim On October - 5 - 2012 Comments Off on Protecting Santa Claus – The Need for Insurance

Protecting Santa Claus –  The need for Insurance

(This is the second in a three part series on Protecting Santa Claus)

Yesterday I covered information on getting a background check and why it has become necessary for most Santas and their clients.   Today, I want to continue my information on Protecting Santa Claus, by presenting information on getting insurance and why you should consider it.

Forty years ago, one would have never heard the question, “Do you have insurance,” when talking to a client.  Most often a Santa was hired as the employee of the department store or maybe the photo company.   And any families, local businesses or even local community groups never asked for any proof of insurance.

Wow!  How times have changed.  Today’s Santa and just about every contract entertainer and event contractor has to show some proof of liability insurance.  For Santa’s, clowns, magicians and face painters, it is usually entertainer’s liability insurance.

Entertainer or Performer Liability Insurance is protection or coverage for you, the entertainer.  It is to protection for you should there be any accident or situation where you are appearing or working.  If someone gets hurt, they may want compensation, or seek damages against you.  Even if you are volunteering to perform or appear, you are open to liability should something happen.  Even if it is not your fault, someone could try to sue you.

RealSantas.com, generally requires that everyone we sub-contract, or refer to a client, be covered by some form of entertainer, performer or business liability insurance. This includes Santas, entertainers, photographers, helpers, etc.

Entertainer’s liability insurance is now required by almost every commercial venue where you might work. And, for your own protection you should also have insurance for those private parties and social events you attend..

No matter where a Santa or Mrs. Claus appears there are certain liabilities or chances that an accident or problem might occur.   And this is true no matter where you are working, or for whom.  Even if you are a pro-bono Santa who volunteers at schools, churches and charities, giving freely of your time, you should seriously consider having liability insurance. (That is why at SchoolforSantas I always remind the Santas doing charitable work to ask for a small stipend of $25 or $50 to cover gas, costume costs, dry cleaning, insurance, etc.)

No matter where you work, an accident could happen.  A child slips off your knee, trips over your boots, chokes on a candy cane or cookie, stares at you while walking by and trips over another child!  All of these have been grounds for lawsuits.  If a child falls off your lap, trips over your photo cables or boots, or just slips while in your proximity, the parents could try to sue you.

There is a story of  a case where a child, walking through the mall and holding his parent’s hand, was staring over at Santa Claus and walked right into a piece of mall furniture, breaking a tooth and having to go to the emergency room.

One would think that someone would have told the child and even the parent to watch out where they were walking.  But instead the parent sued the mall, Photo Company and Santa for being an “Attractive Nuisance.”

The word is that lawsuit went to trial, but was eventually thrown out.  However in the meantime there were lawyers and costs.   Liability insurance can help protect you from the cost of such lawsuits.   And protect your personal assets, such as your home.

So having insurance will give you protection against loses should you be sued.

Even if you work at a Mall, where you will already have coverage, through either the photo company or the Mall or both, you may still need insurance if you do pick up outside work or after-hour parties that are not part of your mall or photo company contract.  I know of many Santas who share mall positions with other Santas and use the rest of their time to do private parties.

Santa Insurance

There are two ways to obtain entertainer’s liability insurance:

  1. You can contact your business or personal insurance agent and ask them to add, “Entertainer’s or Performer’s Liability” coverage to your business or homeowners insurance.
  2. You can purchase insurance through an Entertainment Insurance Broker or a club or association.

Usually the amount of a policy starts are around $2million General Aggregate or total coverage with $1million coverage per occurrence or incident.  Some policies will offer up to $5 million aggregate coverage.  The cost is usually between $150.00 and $200.00 per person depending on the type of coverage, length of coverage and the amount of coverage.

This insurance covers your customers and anyone visiting you should there be an accident.  It does not cover you, Mrs. Claus, or helpers, should any of you slip, fall, or are injured.  It only covers your customers or those visiting you, or someone else, not working with you.  So if you have Mrs. Claus or a helper with you, each of them will also need insurance.

Also check the policy.  Some policies only cover you when working as Santa, Mrs. Claus or a holiday character.  If you also work as a magician, juggler, pirate, wizard or other character, you  will need to make sure your policy covers you for all characters.

An important item in getting your insurance is to check and see if the policy is in your name.  Some policies are for a group and you are only a named insured, which means coverage can be split between everyone else on the policy, with the maximum coverage not to exceed the total aggregate.

Individual policies mean that the total aggregate coverage is totally for you.

Sometimes the location where you are working, may also ask for a COI naming them the property where you are appearing and even the landlord or management company.  That is why it is important to select an insurance company who will not charge you for additional certificates.

Most insurance companies offer COI’s at no additional costs, no matter how many different certificates you request.  However some of the lesser priced insurance programs charge a $25 or $30 fee for each additional COI.   These costs could add up and you will end up paying more in the long run.  So check around before buying your insurance.

I have compiled a list of insurance companies and a few associations that offer entertainer’s insurance. You can find that list at: http://www.realsantas.com/liabilityinsurance.htm

I  do not suggest or recommend one insurance company over another, but do know that each of the companies offers some form of insurance.  In some cases, you will also have to join the association that is offering the insurance.  Check around and ask other Santas and entertainers, or contact your own insurance agent and ask about getting entertainer or performer’s liability insurance.  Be informed.

Should you have any question on these insurance carriers, please contact them direct. Our company cannot offer insurance as I am not a licensed underwriter and I really cannot answer anything other than what you are reading here.

Tomorrow: Reducing your Liability

 

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Special Report – Protecting Santa Claus – Background Checks

posted by SantaTim On October - 5 - 2012 Comments Off on Special Report – Protecting Santa Claus – Background Checks

Protecting Santa Claus –  The need for Background Checks

(This is the first in a three-part series on Protecting Santa Claus)

In recent years it has become a  necessity that all Santas have background checks and  obtain some form of entertainer’s liability insurance.   It is no longer just the simple task of putting on the Red Suit, now we find we have to protect ourselves and our clients.

If you haven’t already gotten your insurance and background check, now is the perfect time to take action.  So today, I am going to discuss Background Checks. And I have collected information on various background checks and the links are at the end of this report.

Why Background checks

It is fact that many parents are fearful of their children falling into the wrong hands.  At least once each holiday season we hear a rumor, or there is a news story, telling us of a situation where a child has been harmed or molested by someone the child thought they could trust, and maybe even the family trusted.

There have also been stories over the years, informing us of teachers, ministers and care givers who committed violent and unthinkable acts against a child, a senior or someone in their care.

Needless to say, the behavior and actions of a few have created levels of concern to the photo companies, the malls and, more importantly, the many parents who bring their children to see the ‘Man in Red.’

Shopping malls, entertainment companies and holiday photo companies have heard these stories too.  Because of this, and the requests of parents, they have taken on the practice of screening their Santas and, in most cases, all of their holiday employees.

This is not to say that Santa, nor his helpers are a problem.  The reason for the background checks is to give assurance to the families that their children will be safe.  It also gives everyone some peace of mind.

Employment screening was once as simple as a detailed employment application and a few phone calls to references, former employers and friends.

But times change and with that, today’s background checks are very detailed starting with a Social Security number trace and including a national criminal history search, checks against sexual offender and molestation registries, motor vehicle records search, credit history, verification of education, and previous employment references.

Hospitals, convalescent homes, daycare centers and schools are now finding it a requirement to perform a complete background check on all employees.  This practice includes everyone from doctors and teachers to the janitorial staff, teacher aides and anyone who volunteers.

And all major youth organizations and associations or charities that work with children not only require background checks with checks against national sex offender registries, but have established written policies on how their volunteers work and manage the children.

A good criminal background check should verify your identification and that you are who you say you are.  It should also include a criminal background check going back 5 to 10 years, and should be done for every county you have lived in during that 5 to ten year period.

Unless you are going to be handling someone else’s money, they should not need a credit report, although some companies look at those for character evaluations.

Some companies hiring may also want a Santa to have a drug test.  I have even heard of a few situations where the local or county health agencies required anyone working with children to have a TB test.

Some major companies require detailed, thorough background checks.  This is because whatever happens in their business or activities, is highly visible in the media.  For some reason, Major corporations, Public figures and even Santa Claus are easy targets for the media.  Should there be one problem with an employee or contractor, it will become a national or international news item.  It could even go viral on the internet.  So the Background check is a necessity.

Getting your Background check

If you are working for, or planning to work for, a major Photo Company or mall, they will generally take care of processing a full employment and background check on you.  If you are a contract employee, you may be asked to supply and pay for your own insurance and background check.

If you work for yourself and want to obtain something that you can show clients when asked, there are a few ways to obtain a background check.

Most major companies and many clients, including RealSantas.com now require that anyone working with children be required to confirm a background check prior to working at any booking or event.  Many clubs and associations now also require background checks of anyone joining.

To insure that the background check information is ‘Fresh,’ my company does not require the background check be done until October 1, or four weeks prior to the first day of work.  If you are a year-round entertainer or a Summer-Santa, you should have a background check done annually or at least every 18 months.  We normally will accept a background check if it is within the past 18 months.

ALL ACCEPTABLE BACKGROUND CHECKS MUST INCLDUED:

  • A national criminal records database search.
  • A national sexual offender database search.

If the background check is not within the past 18 months, or if is does not include the two national record checks listed above, it is not acceptable as a background check.  Therefore, local municipal or county record searches, applications and permits for business, hunting, or other activities are generally not admissible for this purpose as they do not include the national checks.

Some companies or associations will accept documentation or proof of background checks by legitimate agencies, however the records check must include all of the above national data bases, otherwise they will not be accepted.

We also know that some entertainment insurance companies are now providing additional molestation insurance coverage when the background check is done at the time of getting insurance. Check with your insurance company or association. (Details on insurance will be in tomorrow’s blog.)

Financial or credit background checks are generally not required nor necessary and normally do not include the national criminal and sexual offender searches.   RealSantas.com does not require drug testing and/or fingerprint checks, at this time, unless specified by the Client.    However please know that some photo companies and malls may request such as a condition of  employment.  This is usually at their expense.

The basic cost for a background check varies from around $20.00 or less, to as much as $50.00, or more if there are any record search fees charged by your city, county or state.  Unless your background check is being paid for by a photo company or mall, this fee is usually paid by you.

Background checks are for each individual.  It cannot be extended to couples, partners or other entertainers.

Some Santas, on their own, visit their local police department or county sheriff’s office and have them run a report.  These are limited possibly to the county and state they are run in.  And in some cases this will satisfy any request you might ever get from a client.  But more than often, if these do not have checks of the national criminal and sex offender data bases, will not be accepted.

Other Santas are foster parents, or do volunteer work with children’s associations or agencies.  These agencies will process a background check on you.  If you are lucky, you might be able to use this background check for your Santa work.  But often, it is only for their use.  So you may still have to get your own background check.

A few Santa organizations are now asking, and even requiring, that their members get or have some sort of criminal background check.

Beginning in 2007, I began requiring all of my Santas and anyone working with my clients to have a current background check, preferably done thirty days prior to starting work for my company.

Today, I simply give all Santas a list of agencies or services companies that offer background checks.  You can review this list at my web site www.RealSantas.com

Here is the direct link to the Background check page: http://www.RealSantas.com/backgroundchecks.htm

It is not easy going to a Santa you have known for five or ten years and asking them to submit to a background check.  But times are changing, and we do want to protect the children.

Tomorrow – Santa’s Liability Insurance

The Marines are looking for a few good Santas!

posted by SantaTim On August - 30 - 2012 Comments Off on The Marines are looking for a few good Santas!

For the past few days, I have been working with Santa J.R. Arthur on a special project that is near and dear to my heart, Toys for Tots!

Everyone has heard the term, “The Marines are looking for a few Good Men!”   Well now the Marines are looking for a few good Santas!  In fact a few hundred good Santas!

Click here volunteer for the 2012 Toys for Tots Campaign

Since 1947  in Hollywood, California and then nationwide in 1948, the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program (T4T) has help millions of families bring joy to their children on Christmas morning through the donation of un-wrapped toys and books.  Through the donations from millions of Americans, via T4T, the Marines have helped distribute these gifts to every corner of America and beyond.   And each Christmas season I appear in the Hollywood Christmas Parade and the official Charity of the Parade is Toys for Tots.   So you can see why I want to help the Marines and in the long term, hundreds and thousands of children.

And now the Marines Need You!

There are 714 USMCR T4T Campaigns across the United States, Plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.  And each will be kicking off their campaigns in mid October and we would like to know if you could volunteer for your local area campaign.  This project is for all Santas, both real bearded and designer bearded.  (It’s not the beard, it’s what you have in your heart!)

This is a volunteer position for the initial campaign kick-off in late October or Early November.  It is volunteering for the actual campaign committee or unit.  Yes there are lots of Toys for Tots collection events promoted by restaurants, stores and auto dealerships.  But this request is just for the key kick-off events hosted by the local campaign committees.

There are over 275 USMCR units across the U.S.  In addition Marine Corps League Detachments and selected local community organizations (generally veteran Marines), located in communities without a Marine Reserve Center, conduct toy collection and distribution campaigns in their communities as part of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

These are the campaigns you will be helping.

On September 14, 15 & 16, in Quanitco, VA, the over 700+ coordinators will attend the 13th Annual Coordinator Conference at the National Executive Center in Virginia, for training and to get their marching orders for this years campaign.

New this year at the conference will be a special booth with a team of Santas and Mrs. Claus: Dale Parris, Master Gunnery Sergeant, USMC (ret) & Trish Parris, Gunnery Sergeant, USMC (ret) (also Official Santa and Mrs. Claus from the Marine Corps Museum), a few other Santa Volunteers and myself.

We will be helping the Marines find local Santas in their communities to help with their campaign kick-offs.

Can you be one of the Santas we refer to the Marines?

If you are interested, we need the following:

  • Your Name
  • Your Address
  • A telephone number where the Marines can contact you
  • An email address where they can contact you
  • A good Head shot

Click here to send your information and photo

This information is being put into a special data base that will be accessible only by the Marines and the committee working on this project.  We are actually creating a special map of the U.S. with all available Santas posted on the map.  The local Marine Corps Reserve Unit will have access to the map and can select a Santa and call him direct.

Remember, this is for the official USMCR Toys4Tots Kick-Off events.  You may of course volunteer for more of their events, but many other collection events are more commercial and we do not expect Santas to volunteer for everything.

Just give us your time for one kick-off event.

God Bless you and may the spirit of Christmas be with you every day.

Santacerely,

Santa Tim Connaghan, Staff Sergeant, USArmy (Vietnam Veteran)
Santa J.R. Arthur, LtCmdr, US Navy (ret)

P.S.  Please feel free to foward this to anyone you know.  We want Santas for every Toys for Tots campaign kick-off.

 

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