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.
The events industry is like no other. Events are dynamic and fluid with numerous issues surfacing along the way. Events are continuously influenced by both external and internal factors. Whether it is a sporting event, concert, trade show, festival, award show, political convention or party they present a unique set of challenges. Events, regardless of size or situation, are exposed to risks involving safety, security, legal, financial, and environmental considerations. In order for an event to be successful, it must manage all of its obligations appropriately; after all, you only have one opportunity to succeed.
Events can range in size from a small family gathering to a multi-national sporting event, with each requiring qualified and competent planners to address pressing issues. Planning a successful event is no easy task. Planners and venue operators must coordinate the delivery, set-up, use and tear-down of equipment, structures, goods and materials; simultaneously coordinating staff and vendors in an effort to ensure a satisfied client. In order to achieve event success it requires early and thorough planning and continuous monitoring of the operation.
Most event planners and venue operators spend countless hours developing and managing their events; the bulk of which are extremely successful. However, more often than you may be aware, event planners and venue operators are faced with adverse conditions and situations that can and do result in serious injuries and/or deaths. Unfortunately, little is being done to alter the outcomes, not because planners don’t care, but because they don’t know. When you ask an event planner what risk management is most will tell you it has to do with contracts, insurance and security. They are correct, but a key and vital component is missing – safety. Many planners and venue operators are under the impression that those items make-up safety.
Contracts spell out agreements between parties, insurance protects parties in the event of a loss, and security observes and reports suspicious activities, but safety, if done correctly, identifies and mitigates hazards and prevents adverse events from occurring. Many planners and venue operators will identify this as an emergency disaster plan; however, this is not the case. Safety is a proactive measure that is necessary to prevent injuries or damages. Emergency response plans are developed to respond to adverse situations after they occur. In order to achieve a comprehensive risk management plan you need a cohesively designed strategy that includes contracts, insurance, security, safety and an emergency disaster plan. The collective whole is what makes this work.
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. The number of incidents are staggering and each of these listed were preventable. If you continue to operate without set standards addressing risk you are playing with fire. You cannot identify every risk, but you can adapt your plan to mitigate it, essentially lessening the blow to your bottom line and image. Planners and venue operators must do a better job of developing and implementing fully developed risk management plans in order to ward off any potential ill effects resulting from real or perceived negligence on their part.
So what do you do?
You are an event planner or venue operator trying to plan an event and now you have this to contend with – like you did not have enough on your plate. Don’t be alarmed, the last thing to do is sit and stew in fear doing nothing because it is overwhelming. Information is readily available to planners and venue operators and should be used. Listening to and asking you client questions is a great place to start. Historical data from previous events or reviewing similar ones might provide vital data as well. You could also contact insurance companies that specialize in events and talk to them about the risks associated with your type of event. Your insurance underwriter might even share claims data with you concerning past events. Don’t bank on the data though; sometimes the most telling story is the one that goes untold. Near misses are indicators of possible accidents/incidents. If you notice dozens of people tripping over an electrical cord and no one falls that does not mean that someone won’t. Don’t wait for the little old lady in a walker to come strolling by taking a head first plunge. Utilize recording programs to capture that kind of information and train your staff to identify and eliminate situations like that. Remember, every event tells a story, you just have to invest the time listening to the message.
The final suggestion is to identify regulations and industry common practices that impact your event; easier said than done though, this takes time and training. The volume of regulations, standards, codes, ordinances, common practices, and permits that apply to many events are vast and change from location to location. Most event planners are not risk management experts and you should not pretend to be. There are those in the industry that have assumed the title of risk manager, but are lacking the qualifications and background to support it—a potentially devastating mistake. When an area exceeds the scope of the planner or venue operator it is time to contact a qualified expert in that field. However, if that falls outside of your ability or means there is something you can do. Besides ensuring the existence of contracts, insurance and security, the event planner or venue operator, at a minimum, should ask each vendor, book-in, operator etc., if there are special requirements for their respective operation and are they following the approved safety procedures for whatever it is they are doing. All rental companies (tents, stages, golf-carts, etc.), amusement ride/device operators, food and beverage vendors, and more must comply with specific regulations. Essentially, everybody working at your event should be following a set of rules. Word of advice—you want to see a copy of what they are following (manuals, policies, training guides, etc.). If they squirm or don’t have it—find another vendor.
One thing is for sure—the emphasis on risk management is not going away, in fact, some would say that it is just beginning. The media, both social and traditional, are highlighting the missteps of the event industry more and more. As a result, regulators and attorneys are paying more attention to the industry looking to capitalize on negligent acts. The increasingly competitive and international presence of the events industry warrants swift and decisive action regarding sound risk management measures. When event planners or venue operators contribute or are perceived to have contributed to a preventable accident/incident that results an injury and/or death it is difficult to rebound because of public perception. It is important to show and prove that you did everything you could.
Word of caution—as stated, you cannot identify or eliminate every risk, but at a minimum you should be aware of risks associated with your event based on prior incidents and should follow all regulations and practices in an effort to eliminate or mitigate those risks. If you are a planner or venue operator you should fully understand the requirements to host an event at each new location or venue. Some locations and larger venues will spell it out for you very clearly—in fact, you won’t be able to get much done until you comply. However, other locales are not as aware or forth-coming. A good place to start is with the fire marshal’s office at the location you are hosting the event, but don’t stop there. Event risk management is evolving and the requirements for a safe and successful event are changing. Don’t be a statistic, keep pace with the evolution and remain a competitive industry force with forward thinking.
Case Study… Think About It!
Imagine this: You are planning an evening gala at a hotel. You selected a location that has an impeccable reputation for service and accommodating people’s every need. You took extra care in your selection because you needed to accommodate 10 attendees with special dietary needs – several of them were high profile clients. The chef at this hotel was world renowned and was readily available to discuss and plan for service. Prior to the event you met with the chef to explain the menu and address the concerns of several key meals. It was explained that one of the guests was
highly allergic to egg and dairy. The chef said he would personally oversee the egg- and dairy-free meal. As stated, the chef personally cooked and delivered the egg- and dairy-free meal. The chef assured the guest that the meal was allergy free and had met her egg- and dairy-free requirements. The guest thanked the chef profusely and never doubted for a second that there would be a problem with it.
The guest took several bites of the meal and started to have an allergic reaction. Within minutes the guest was experiencing anaphylactic shock – her throat was closing and she was having difficulty breathing. Fortunately, someone knew about her allergies and Epi-pen and was able to obtain it and administer a shot. Unfortunately, she had left her Epi-pen in her coat at the coat check, which wasted valuable time nearly resulting in her death. The woman survived, but was taken to an area hospital for further treatment and observation. The quick action of a friend and the organized effort by staff to call EMS prevented a tragic incident from occurring. It was later determined that the chef had used a utensil that had trace elements of egg from another dish.Some things to consider:
- Did the chef commit to something he did not fully understand? What should the chef have done differently?
- Are most chefs and cooks fully aware of the sensitivities allergic people have to food? What can be done to change this?
- How do you prevent this from happening? What type of questions should you ask?
- What kind of policies and procedures should have been in place to accommodate guests with food allergy concerns?
- Should you train staff to respond to allergic reactions? How do you train them?
- Can you deny a person service based on food allergies? Why or why not?
- What should the allergic person have done differently?
- Did the chef open himself and the location up to liability as a result of his actions? Why or why not?