Aim for an injury-free zone
Sporting events are controlled competition among rivals, and that gets people excited. For as long as people have been running races, throwing balls, and riding horses, crowds have gathered to cheer on the competitors.
When emotions run high, that excitement can continue after the competition is over, and not always with good results. All too often, the parking lots associated with sporting events can become an arena for fights, assaults and other dangerous behavior. Parking lots are where more than 7 percent of violent attacks at sporting and other large crowd events take place, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Anything can happen
Tailgating and fierce rivalries can lead to confrontations, intentional or not. Whenever alcohol is present, so is the potential for a something to go wrong. For example, a fan suffered a broken leg following a college football game when a drunk patron knocked her down as she walked to her vehicle. She sued the school because no security or parking lots attendants were present when the incident took place. Taking the fact that the school sold alcohol at the event and therefore knew the potential for intoxication and the risks involved to attendees, the court ruled in the student’s favor.
The facility’s responsibility
Facility owners/managers should take proactive steps to reduce the potential for bodily injury and property damage in parking lots that can result from tailgating, accidents, fights, assaults, vandalism, etc. Anytime a large crowd includes excited, upset, and possibly intoxicated people, tempers can flare. Add to the mix rain, heat, and/or a long wait to get out of the parking lot, and trouble can easily erupt.
Below are risk management strategies to reduce parking lot risks.
- Document everything. It’s easier to defend your facility if it has written training manuals, documented safety checks, a log of issues/resolutions and video or still images of recorded incidents.
- Maintain appropriate lighting, checking bulbs annually.
- Remove shrubs and keep large trashcans and other large objects from obstructing a full view of the parking lot.
- Have sufficient parking lot staff to visually monitor and conduct periodic walking checks of all areas.
- Train parking lot staff to address violations, establish a presence by interacting with fans, and intervene immediately when disturbances take place.
- Install high-resolution security cameras.
- Meet prior to the event with security officials, law enforcement and facility management to discuss potential issues and debrief following the event.
- Ensure that parking lot staff members are all on the same page about who has authority, the chain of command, and proper communication channels and procedures.
- Inform fans of safety procedures using signs, the public address system, and fliers.
A facility won’t be liable for unanticipated third-party criminal acts. But if an incident does take place, the facility has a duty to take precautions against future occurrences. Not doing so can mean significant liability.