What does it take to run Central Florida’s premier sports and live entertainment venue? Lecturer Brian Avery’s Hospitality/Event Risk Management class found out during an exclusive tour of the Amway Center on Nov. 19. Phil Hastings, director of arena operations for the Orlando Magic, served as their guide, providing a front of house and back of house tour as well as a one hour Q&A session. The students also watched the team’s pre-game shoot around and cheered them on later at the game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Hastings gave Rosen College students an inside look at the inner workings of the multifaceted facility and their risk management strategy, a critical aspect of venue operations. Through this unique experience, the students saw the concepts they learned in class come to life.
“The goal was to show the students that quality event locations incorporate risk management policies and procedures into everyday operations policies and procedures– they are never separate if you intend for them to work,” said Avery. “Some of the concepts I discuss in class seem far-fetched… that is until you see them in place, being used and working.”
It is vital that we get these students out into real work environments to see how the subjects they are learning are applied in our industry. Concepts like risk management can be a lot to learn in a classroom setting and some important details can get lost in a sea of information. Seeing policies and procedures set in place in a large venue like the Amway Center shows students just how important this knowledge is to their future success. These students will soon be the leaders of the hospitality industry and it is the duty of event professionals to educate these students by sharing their knowledge and experience.
First and foremost, let’s start with the basics. What is a sign? A sign is something that suggests the presence of a fact, condition, or quality not immediately evident; an indication an action or gesture used to convey an idea, desire, information, or command. Additionally, it can be a board or placard displayed in a place to advertise or convey information or direction, or a conventional figure or device that stands for a word, phrase or operation. I think we now have a firm understanding… like we didn’t before!
To some extent, signs are everywhere. They inform us, they sell to us, they provide directions and warn us of potential or real dangers. Signs can be broken down into numerous categories, for the sake of this blog I will limit it to 5: informative (this tree is a “xyz type”), directional (“Enter Here,” “Exit Only”), way-finding (“Fantasyland,” “Park/Event Exit”), instructional (“No Smoking Please,” “Do Not Feed the Animals”), and warnings (innocuous, “You may get wet” to life and death warnings, “High Voltage”).
Event, tourism, and attraction (ETA) environments are no different than any other environment when it comes to the use and needs of signage. ETA environments are saturated with signs and other visual forms of communications. It could be argued that such an abundance of signs in these environments results in the signs being ignored, becoming visual background noise. However, when done correctly, the constant instruction provided through signage can produce an environment that reflects specific rules and associations that in turn promotes more predictable behaviors.
Considering the nature of ETA environments (often temporary) and the relationship with invitees (patrons) on controlled premises, the goal of an ETA’s planner should be to develop sign packages that properly inform, direct, instruct and warn patrons regarding the intended use of the external and internal environment and available experiences offered. ETA organizers and planners typically have the basics down: food and beverage locations, restrooms, parking, cash machines, VIP areas, and way-finding. However, many of the critical signs often get overlooked.
Unfortunately, the most often overlooked or underdeveloped sign is a warning sign—also the most critical. Many confuse a “warning” sign with that of an instructional/informational sign. There is a significant difference between warnings and instructional/informational signs. A warning is an intimation, threat, or sign of impending danger or evil; advice to beware, as of a person or thing. We should use warnings to advise patrons and staff of harm and the intended consequences of said harm. This practice is often only achieved after an incident due to failed or inadequate policies/procedures to identify and/or eliminate/mitigate known and foreseeable hazards.
There is good news though! There is a science to developing and implementing signage—one that the ETA industry can easily follow and implement. Standards exist within industry that address the formats, colors, and symbols for safety signs used in environmental and facility applications, product applications, and accident prevention tags/tape. ANSI Z535 is a primary example of a standards writing body that develops such practices. It is important to note warning signs are the last resort of consumer safety and should only be used when engineering practices cannot remove the hazards associated with the experiences or conditions. If it has been determined that engineering the hazard out is not possible, then develop proper educational measures and enforcement tactics to prevent incidents. The use of established warning methods is a great place to start.
Fall is a great time of year for the events industry. The weather cools, kids are back in school, parents are settled into a routine, and the holidays are fast approaching. Event planners and organizers capitalize on the autumn air and the eager community by providing attractions and experiences at art shows, festivals, pumpkin patches, and more.
During this time of year, one of the fastest growing and most sought after events by patrons is the “farm experience.” Many farms are taking advantage of the appeal of a rural setting during the fall and providing patrons with numerous entertainment options. Those options can include: pumpkin patches, hayrides, corn mazes, bounces houses, pumpkin- apple-chuckers, playgrounds, petting zoos, haunted attractions, and various other amusement rides and devices. On the surface, most of these attractions and experiences would seem safe. However, each has varying levels of risk and each needs to be addressed accordingly.
Over the next several weeks I will address the safety concerns of the offerings independently—due to the unique nature of each. I am going to start, however, with hayrides due to a recent incident that occurred on 10/11/14, in Mechanic Falls, Maine. A 17-year-old young woman died and 22 others were injured while experiencing the Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride (hayride) at Harvest Hill Farms on. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has estimated that the number of serious injuries of hayrides and other amusement rides has risen dramatically. This makes sense, considering the escalation in the number of providers and patron experiences. I am privy as well to several incidents and resulting deaths/injuries due to the nature of my work.
Hayrides are an amusement device? According to ASTM F-24 on Amusement Rides and Devices, an amusement device by definition is: A device or combination of devices or elements that carry, convey, or direct a person(s) over or through a fixed or restricted course or within a defined area, for the primary purpose of amusement or entertainment. Although ASTM clearly identifies through definition that a hay ride is an amusement device, it does not cover or discuss them within the provided standards though (UPDATE: ASTM WK50036 is currently working on a guide for the Operation of Hayride Attractions). This does not mean there are no standards or accepted practices within the industry—quite the contrary. There are numerous publications, guidelines, rules, state laws, etc. that address how to properly develop, maintain and operate a hayride safely.
The key is seeking these guides, recommendations and practices—standards, and applying them to your event or venue. As event planners and operators there are numerous relied upon processes and frameworks for developing a safe and secure event. Through the identification and use of these internationally acknowledged frameworks, experienced event planners and organizers would know the process to develop and/or secure quality processes and/or vendors in order to provide safe attractions and experiences for patrons. When inviting patrons to experience events on typically non-purpose built premises is it imperative that proper planning and research go into the equation. Hayrides and the routes they take are no different.
When developing a hayride amusement experience you should consider the following: Route inspection and maintenance (this is an ongoing process—potholes, tree limbs, embankments), tractor and equipment (hay bales secure, trailer size/capacity, hitch hook-up, towing capacity, braking ability, traction), training and communication (ground crew, drivers, gate staff, spotters, radios, hand signals, signage, lighting), loading and unloading (queue line, barricades, fencing, waiting areas, steps/ladders, surface, staff), and tractor operation (supervision, rules, additional vehicles, routes). This by no means is a complete list, however, it should be an indicator to farm/event operators of the need to research and develop policies and procedures that address the safe operation of a hayride attraction. There is a formalized process for doing so, they just need to take the time to learn about and carry it out.
More often than we care to believe, within the events and attractions industry, patrons are subjected to known and foreseeable risks due to inexperienced event planners and operators seeking to take advantage of windows of opportunity. Some within the farm industry use these events to remain economically viable. Regardless of the reasons, when planning an event and inviting patrons to experience attractions, the planner/organizer needs to invest some time and money in providing a safe and fun experience for all. The identification and use of established policies and procedures for hayrides can eliminate and/or mitigate most known hazards associated with them.
When installing temporary structures such as tents at festivals and events, it is imperative that consideration be given to the following safety related concerns: Obstructions, location, weather, wind exposure, access, exits, and anchoring stability. Event organizers and planners are responsible for identifying materials and standards that provide requirements for the proper setup and use of tents in event environments. Event organizers and planners must consult manufacturer instruction manuals, industry standards, and national and local regulations and codes when organizing and setting-up events regardless of size or scope that will be using tents.
Quality 10’x10’ tents are sold with accompanying instructions for care, maintenance and set-up procedures. Although 10’x10’ tents have the ability to be free-standing they require proper anchoring for weather and other related concerns. It is important to determine the installation requirements and capabilities of the tents allowed at festivals and events in order to ensure the safety of the vendors and patrons occupying and using the tents. Most, if not all, owner’s manuals for 10’x10’ tents clearly indicate the appropriate methods for staking down a 10’x10’ tent.
In addition to the provided owner’s manual, there are readily available guidelines and standards addressing the safety of tents, canopies and temporary membrane structures. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 102 Standard for Grandstands, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures (2006) addresses the safe installation and use of tents, canopies and temporary membrane structures at festivals. The Industrial Fabric Association International (IFAI) Procedural Handbook for the Safe Installation and Maintenance of Tentage addresses the safe installation and use of tents, canopies and temporary membrane structures. The IFAI addresses the requirements for site surveys, staking and setting-up pipe frame supported tents.
The IFAI discusses the requirement of consulting the provided manufacturer’s manual regarding the setup of each tent. The consultation of the owner’s manual is required for ensuring compliance with layout, staking and setup regarding the safe use of any tent. The IFAI provides site survey safety materials to identify and recognize hazards concerning the installation and use of tents. Of its seven listed safety considerations, it recognizes that the installer should be aware of obstructions, location and access. Additionally, the IFAI suggests that a detailed installation and safety check sheet should be developed by the company providing set-up.
Aside from weather related tents failures, trip hazards in walkways and paths must be considered. Careful attention must be paid to make certain that trip hazards are not created when having an event. The layout and use of space should be established in order to avoid introducing known or foreseeable trip hazards (It is a clear violation, in any environment, to create an obstruction or trip hazard in a path/walkway meant for pedestrian use; ASTM F 1637-07 discusses the importance of maintaining safe exterior walking conditions). Tent tethers and stakes are known to pose a trip hazard at events. There are numerous established standards and common industry practices available that detail efforts to avoid the creation of trip hazards as a result of the use of tethers and stakes to secure temporary tents. Event planners and organizers can do the following to minimize the potential of tripping hazards associated with temporary tents and structures (consult the manufacturer manual for the best recommendation) (a combination of the following may be used) (please understand this is not a complete list):
- Stake directly into the ground and clip the stake at the base of the pole;
- Tie flags on to the tethers and/or stakes;
- Weights should be tethered with lines that are clearly visible (color and size);
- OSHA 1910.144 (a) (3), Safety color code for marking physical hazards, ‘Yellow shall be the basic color for designating caution and for marking physical hazards such as: Striking against, stumbling, falling, tripping, and ‘caught in between.’’; and,
- ANSI Z535.2-2007, Environmental Facility and Safety Signs, safety colors shall warn through the use of black and orange and caution with black and yellow;
- Large potted plants or other similar indicators could be placed in front of and around the stakes and tethers;
- Crowd barriers/fencing;
- Use of orange safety cones;
- Sand bag tent pole wraps;
- Run the tethers along the frame and stake directly into the surface;
- Use non-tethered weight plates at the base of the tent poles; and/or,
- Use tethered suspended/non-suspended tube/anchor weights that run along the tent frame.
As an event organizer, it is unacceptable not to be aware of available guidelines and standards addressing patron safety.
On August 13, 2011 at approximately 8:50 p.m. EST a tragic incident occurred at the Indiana State Fair killing 5 and injuring dozens more. A 60-70 mph (estimated) gust of wind triggered the incident and brought down the metal scaffolding supporting lights, speakers and other equipment onto the audience below. The stage was set for the band, Sugerland. It was estimated that 200 patrons were seated in the VIP area known as the “Sugar Pit” when the collapse occurred.
Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana has termed this incident as a “fluke” that no one could have anticipated. A fluke can be described as an accident or chance happening. An accident states that an unforeseen, unplanned event or circumstance occurs and that this event transpires from a lack of intention or necessity. This was no fluke… this incident resulted from a combination of a lack of planning and structural failure. This incident was preventable.
Indiana is prone to these types of volatile weather events. Several articles discussed two separate weather related incidents in Indiana that impacted events. In 2006, tornado-force winds hit Indianapolis following a John Mellencamp concert. In 2004, a tornado forced the interruption of the start of the Indianapolis 500. Governor Daniels stated that no one could have foreseen such a strong gust. Weather can be a funny thing; however, the event planners and venue operators had historical evidence suggesting that catastrophic wind events can and do occur in this region. A plan should have been developed that appropriately monitored and evacuated patrons in the event of a storm. Witnesses say Indiana state police took to the stage to issue a weather warning about 10 minutes before. Where was the evacuation order? Clearly they missed a primary indicator and opportunity to avoid unnecessary devastation.
In 2009, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic hosted the debut of its manned spaceship in the Mojave Desert—another wind prone area. The night of the event, hurricane-force winds leveled the event’s main tent. The difference was that the event planners and venue operators had a plan. The weather was being continuously monitored by event staff and upon the recognition of a severe windstorm the patrons were evacuated. The event planners decided long before the weather turned serious to ask patrons to seek safety and shelter elsewhere. Staged buses were available to guests for shelter. This is an excellent example of pre-planning and averting unnecessary losses. Governor Mitch Daniels said precautions were taken before the storm – what did that include?
The second failure was the stage – an entirely different topic. It is difficult to determine the cause of the collapse without inspecting it. It is evident that it failed under the winds it was subjected to, but why? Were supporting beams (braces) in place? Were guy-wires in place? Was the cabling secure and adequate? Was it inspected before use? Who did the inspection? Was the roof vented for wind? Was this stage rated for this kind of wind? Was it installed properly? There are so many questions to answer concerning this device. Hopefully, the event planners and venue operators asked them ahead of time.
Risk management planning cannot be left to chance. There are numerous examples of accidents/incidents occurring within the events industry on a daily basis. If you don’t think it can impact your organization, think again. It is a matter of time and exposures before it does. Some recent examples include: a fatal stage collapse in Edmonton, 40 people injured in a hayride accident in Washington, a 12-year old run over by a parade float, and a bouncy house blowing over injuring 6. Now, we have 5 dead and dozens more injured from another stage collapse. The numbers of incidents are staggering and all preventable. Planners and venue operators must do a better job of developing and implementing fully developed risk management plans in order to prevent incidents such as this.