'Tis the season for holiday merry-making and despite the economic doldrums, many businesses are planning holiday celebrations this year. Whether your party is taking place at an off-site location or is in the office, it is important to maintain high level of vigilance. As vice president and general manager for the New England region of the largest American-owned security officer services company, I have seen my share of holiday parties gone awry. I offer the following top 10 tips to ensure your holiday parties are safe, secure and joyous:

Holiday Parties May Rule but Rules are Needed - Before the party, share with all employees a list of rules and reminders for the holiday celebration. Pre-planning helps avoid many potential disasters.

Heed After Hours Protocol - If your party is taking place after office hours, be aware of the night security arrangements in your building. Some offices lock doors and close stairwells which could alter emergency exit routes. Touch base with your building's security department to ensure they are aware of your event and that you are planning in accordance with building security protocol. Inform security in advance and request guest badges, if needed, to abide by your facility's access policy.

Beware of Balloons! - Motion detectors may send out a false alarm due to holiday balloons or other decorations that move in their path. Make sure light objects are not stored near open windows or vents when the system is armed.

Think Before You Drink - Before serving alcoholic beverages at your office party, review your company's and your building's alcohol policy. If you do serve alcohol, make sure that each employee has a pre-planned ride or arrange for the entire group's transportation home. Ensure that no minors have access to any alcoholic beverages and do not serve alcohol to anyone showing signs of intoxication. Also watch where beverages are placed as many offices are filled with electrical equipment. A spill could cause electrical shock or ruin the equipment and important information.

Replace Lit Candles with Battery Power - Lit candles may look great, but the potential of an office fire is significantly greater during the holidays with candles ablaze. Battery-operated votives safely capture the elegance of wax candles in a flameless alternative.

Food Safety Matters - Food poisoning should always be a concern. Make sure that there is enough refrigerator space to keep foods properly refrigerated and dispose of any foods that have been out too long.

Assess All Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your office and test them monthly.

Check Your CCTV - Closed-circuit television (CCTV), the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, can be disabled by criminals who may try to take advantage of crowds and other commotion due to the holidays. During these busy times criminals will hope to go unnoticed as they attempt low tech methods such as placing a sticker, rag or tape over the lens, or using laser pointers to damage the CCTV cameras or merely disconnect the system's power.

Keep Safety in Mind for Holiday Decorations - Avoid placing holiday decorations in heavily trafficked areas and doorways as people may trip or knock them over. Do not hang decorations from exit signs or sprinklers. Most fire codes require that emergency signs stay visible and the weight of decorations may cause the sprinklers to malfunction. Decorations should not interfere with computers (and their air circulation vents), space heaters or other pieces of equipment that need ventilation.

Turn off the Lights - Make sure all illuminated decorations are turned off when the party is over to decrease the risk of fire. Do not use decorations if they have broken or frayed wires. All decorations should be fire resistant.

Avoid having your holiday celebration turn into a turkey of a party by planning ahead and maintaining vigilance, common sense and caution.

David P. Silvey is the New England region vice president/general manager for AlliedBarton Security Services. AlliedBarton, which has offices in Oregon, is the leading provider of trained security personnel to many industries including higher education, commercial real estate, healthcare, residential communities, chemical/petrochemical, government, manufacturing and distribution, financial institutions and shopping centers.

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