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Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Summer Blues: Seasonal Tourism Puts Risk Managers to the Test

By: | June 7, 2018 • 3 min read
Marilyn Rivers is director of risk and safety for the City of Saratoga Springs. She chairs the PRIMA Institute for the Public Risk Management Association and was named Public Risk Manager of the Year by PRIMA in 2007. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily of the employer. She can be reached at [email protected]

Communities across the country are busy painting lines on roadways, planting flowers and readying their constituents for the seasonal influx of visitors and their baggage. If you’re thinking of baggage as a suitcase, I’m talking about another kind of baggage.

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Each of us brings with us trials and tribulations from which we are seeking one brief moment of respite. Tired, weary and looking for a bit of diversion, we visit communities across the globe hoping for that one moment of solace whether it be sedate or a daring adventure.

As many of us prepare for the summer “high season,” we refurbish our visible infrastructure and prepare ourselves for the diversity of the population descending upon us. Our “regulars” are our community who assist us in our continuous yearly preparations. They steel themselves to the onslaught of traffic congestion and begin managing the changes that will occur in their own personal lives as they plan on how they will deal with the visitors descending upon them. This often creates conflict with the multitude of special events used as fundraising activities for local nonprofits designing events that offer activities to supplement vacation experiences.

Managing seasonal risk is like spinning a prize wheel. Each spin brings with it a potentially different outcome with any one visitor as they bring with them the issues weighing on their mind and their own individual visiting community spirit.

Seasonal risk management is like a classically choreographed ballet. It requires finesse and the precise timing of sequential and compatible governance. Many of us at the top of the seasonal destination list of “places to be and to be seen” in any given season will tax public safety budgets as additional staff is needed for the influx of visitors, the dynamics of their activities and the interaction with the community they are visiting.

Each of our communities gear up for staffing depending upon how we need to mitigate our risks. This staffing may include counselors for children’s summer camps, lifeguards for water risks, flower crews for beautification efforts and additional traffic control staff for known increases in traffic flow.

Long gone is the self-sufficiency of local community law enforcement. Communities across the nation constantly interact with other local law enforcement and state and federal authorities to ensure the safety of all the totality of all of our existences. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) isn’t a cube we place in our cup for a cold drink.

It’s become an organizational effort intent on managing the legality of our private business support staff, and in some cities its enforcement actions may be devastating to the viability of our resources as we attempt to feed, water, house and entertain our visitor populations.

Bars and restaurants embrace the revenue generated from our adult population. Sunshine and warm weather generate beer festivals, beer gardens, wine tastings, barbecue competitions and farmers markets.

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Each event brings with it coordination, licensing, insurance, code and fire enforcement and … staffing that separates government employees from their own seasonal family activities. Think about the overtime associated with each event as risk mitigation efforts ebb and flow with the multitude of events occurring on every given available day — rain or shine — during your community’s “high season.”

While we, as communities, attempt to inject the “happy” factor into seasonal events, our risk warriors take on a weariness as we make all those dreams come true. There is a saturation point in our community’s capacity to mitigate the totality of our daily, weekly and seasonal risks. We just try not to reach it as we problem solve together as a community team by continually COMMUNICATING.

Managing seasonal risk is like spinning a prize wheel. Each spin brings with it a potentially different outcome with any one visitor as they bring with them the issues weighing on their mind and their own individual visiting community spirit. Managing seasonal risk requires patience, courage and belief in the preparations that take place each day of the year as we embrace the hospitality our community offers. &

The opinions expressed in this piece are those of Marilyn Rivers,  not those of the City of Saratoga Springs.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]