Managing Risks to Participants and Spectators at Special Events

Risk management for special sporting events

Precautions can save lives and lawsuits

Community calendars are full of local organizations sponsoring tournaments, festivals, outdoor fundraisers, races, craft fairs and more. You’ll likely attend at least one yourself in any given season.

Those putting on such events are responsible for the safety and security of attendees, participants and vendors. That even includes, in some cases, their property. Weather is one risk that can’t be controlled, but Special event risk managementother potential risks can be mitigated.

Event organizers need to develop a risk management plan long before the event takes place. First-time planners should realize this is as important as planning the venue, advertising, catering, entertainment and other aspects of an event. There are everyday incident types that can occur, like a collapsed tent or injured runner. But terrorist attacks and active shooters at public venues in recent years drastically changed security protocols for public events.

A lot can go wrong

Every event requires preparation, of course. And each step offers opportunities to consider what could go wrong and how to prevent it. Below are some general steps that can be taken to lower the risk of injuries.

  • Law Enforcement and Fire Department: Police presence at the event, in parking lots and directing traffic improves security drastically. Consider requesting bomb-sniffing K-9 units. Notify the fire department well in advance of the event.
  • Registrant/Vendor Check-in: Require participants to provide a photo I.D. at registration to receive their packets/T-shirts/bibs. Vendors should also provide proof they are contracted to be at the event.
  • Baggage Check: Consider making a policy that guests can only bring in clear plastic bags. Otherwise, set a limit on the size and number of bags, totes, or backpacks attendees may carry in.
  • First Aid and Safety Station: Post clearly visible signs designating the location of the first-aid and customer relations stations. Arrange for an ambulance and EMTs to be present for the duration of the event. We recommend that a physician, athletic trainer and/or registered nurse be in attendance at any sporting event.
  • Volunteer Staff: Station your volunteers (wearing event T-shirts, hats or armbands) throughout the venue. This includes parking areas, to monitor the crowds, assist attendees, answer questions, and direct the flow of automobile and pedestrian traffic

Special Events Game Changers

We all know about game changers. Sometimes it’s a certain player, a momentum swing, the venue or fans. Other times it’s an event that makes us stop and rethink our views on one particular topic or another. The bombings at 2013 Boston Marathon qualify as a game changer.

It’s often a catastrophe that makes us re-evaluate our priorities. The Boston Bombings forced us to address our personal safety and the safety of participants at sporting events.

Increasing event security

In attempts to strengthen event security at its football games, the NFL banned spectators from bringing in purses, coolers, backpacks and other miscellany. Some view this as overkill. Others view it as the natural evolution in the continual ramp up of security measures in a volatile setting.

The tech revolution

The technology boom is also helping to strengthen event security. While closed-circuit television is still the Event securityindustry’s main method, the use of cellphones proves the most beneficial in enforcing safety regulations at sporting events. And not just among event staff. Many venues advertise a number for spectators to text or call if other patrons become unruly or are acting suspiciously.

And did you know there are apps available for reporting security issues? Fans may now anonymously submit complaints/observations using ISS 24/7 (or other) software. Game changer!

In addition to security hotlines, social media helps monitor patrons at sporting events. People love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Many sports teams and event management companies use these tools to their advantage. They post on their accounts to spread the word of inclement weather, evacuation notices and other pertinent information.

Smartphones are good for more than just checking your Twitter feed. They are also important in documenting fan behavior at games, both good and bad.  In a world where anyone can be famous on the Internet, staying on your best behavior can mean the difference between YouTube fame and infamy.

Special Events May Require Special Coverage

Every event is different, and safety should be priority No. 1. The security measure you put in place depends on its size, venue, attendance and other factors. And while some will stretch your budget, you’re not saving anything by taking unnecessary risks.

There is one element of the planning stage that should never be overlooked. Determining whether your insurance program includes the coverage needed for a safe event for everyone involved. That includes the hosts, participants, volunteers, vendors and guests.

There are risks involved in hosting and managing special events that may require either added short-term or annual coverage. Check with your agent about the following areas that require particular attention as you plan your event.

Vendors

Vendors can include caterers, tent and equipment rentals, concessions, security, and parking attendants. Sports risk managmentResearch your vendors thoroughly because poor service or a mishap on their part can spoil an entire event. Think of the potential consequences of a collapsed tent or food poisoning. It’s critical that each of your vendors provide you with a valid certificate of insurance evidencing General Liability with a limit of at least $1 million each occurrence. Require that they can add your organization as an additional insured on their policy.

Venues

It’s not unheard of for the actual venue of an event to be a factor that causes an accident or injury claim. Stages collapse, fire exits get blocked, and severe weather sometimes triggers the need for fast evacuations. The more knowledge you have about the number of people attending the event, the electrical equipment needed, and potential for severe weather, the better prepared you will be. For indoor events, make sure you know the emergency protocols of the building. This includes knowing where all the fire extinguishers, exits and stairwells are located. For outdoor events, be sure the terrain and any light/sound rigging are properly installed. Monitor the weather in the days leading up to the event as well as during the event – storms can pop up unexpectedly with disastrous results. Weather apps for smartphones alert you to severe weather watches and warnings.

Emergency Planning

Every event should have a unique emergency plan that all staff and volunteers receive and sign confirming they have read it. The emergency plan should include who has the authority to shut the event down or ask a vendor to vacate. Sudden storms, a shooter in the area, or a vendor with a lapsed permit are only a few examples of when someone may need to make an on-the-spot decision.  The emergency plan should also include a protocol for announcing a closing or changes in the event programming. It goes without saying that all event staff and volunteers should be familiar with the event emergency plan, to include medical Security at special eventsemergencies, lost children, crime and severe weather.

Security

Security often tends to get overlooked because it doesn’t generate income. But consider security an investment that reduces your risk of liability, which is just as good or even better than income. These security tips help make for a much safer event for everyone involved.

  • Volunteers are a great resource. But don’t use them for security enforcement purposes, such as dealing with unruly people, enforcing parking or alcohol regulations, or providing first aid. It’s best to have trained medical and law enforcement professionals handling these duties.
  • Using teachers, senior/varsity athletes and other community leaders is also not a good idea when it comes to maintaining order in the crowd. These temporary-authority figures aren’t always respected by others when they’re out of their element.
  • If you pay for professional security, don’t scrimp. Going with the cheapest security service may not be your wisest decision. Are their employees simply hired staff or trained personnel? Ask what types of sports events and what size crowds they can handle. Ask for examples of situations they managed to control and get references.

Sadler offers Special Event insurance and one of our insurance experts would be happy to help you determine what coverage your event needs.

And further information we have several articles related to reducing the risk of liability and injuries at special events. We can also provide a quick quote for tournament insurance and non-sporting events or you can contact us or call at (800) 622-7370.


Sources:
  • William Dyson. “Safe and Secure: How to Protect Your Event, Your Athletes and Your Spectators.” sportsdestination.com 07 Sept., 2018.
  • Kelly Martin,  “Safety and Security: Changing your game for the better,” Sports Destination Management. Sept./Oct. 2013.