Gearing Up for Summer? Here Are Some Risk Areas to Review to Keep You and Your Adventurers Safe

Whether by land or on water, your summer activities need proper protocols, risk review and insurance protection in place to keep adventurers and facilities safe.
By: | May 25, 2022

The sweet summer sun is just around the corner, and vacation planning in the U.S. is underway in many households across the nation. Canoeing, hiking, biking, summer camps, fishing, camping — the outdoor activities list goes on.

But for those operating outdoor outfitters, lodges, resorts and more, there are a few risk areas to review before anyone can hit the dusty trail.

“Before opening up, it’s essential that any operation offering outdoor activities— go through their summer prep checklist to make sure their operations are ready to go for the incoming influx of people,” said Melissa Rucker, assistant vice president for outdoor products, Philadelphia Insurance Companies.

But with so many different types of activities open to adventurers, where should operations start their summer risk review?

One thing is to assess where those activities are located. Canoeing, boating, fishing and other group activities on the water are going to have a separate set of preparations than hiking or camping might.

Here’s a look at what risk professionals in these operations should be looking at in order to check all the boxes on their summer prep checklist before the season begins.

Activities in the Water

There’s nothing like splashing into the cool depths of a lake during the hot summer days. But before any paddleboard can navigate the waters, it’s going to need a proper inspection.

That, Rucker said, is true for all watercraft.

“Are your boats insured properly? Before the summer months, it’s good to review if you have the right coverage in place. Especially make sure any new boats bought have been added to the policy,” she said.

If the operations include larger boats, it may also be key that guides be on the policy. A new season could mean new hires, so a policy review should be in order to make sure they’re included in the next season’s coverage.

Once policies are aligned, the next step is to check on the actual equipment itself.

Life vests should be inspected before use, as should the watercraft in the operation’s possession, and any oars or other equipment rented out to adventurers.  It is also important to make sure that all required equipment is in place and in good condition (such as whistles, anchors, life rings, etc).

Melissa Rucker, assistant vice president for outdoor products, Philadelphia Insurance Companies

“Dark water drownings are a large concern anytime you’re putting people on boats or on the water. That’s why life vests are so important, and the upkeep of those life vests is so important,” said Rucker.

Boats are susceptible to damage from weather, submerged objects, and collisions with docks or other boats so it is important to inspect them on a regular basis to ensure seaworthiness

Finally, once operations are up and running, it is imperative for these waterfront operations to always keep a pulse on weather. Choppy water is dangerous no matter what safety precautions are in place. Having a weather monitoring plan in place before the season starts is a great risk mitigation strategy.

Activities on Land

Summer adventure isn’t limited to water; hiking, walking tours and other dry land activities abound each summer.

Hiking tours vary greatly across the U.S., from the high elevations of Colorado to the clean-cut paths in national parks, and so the summer prep checklist for these places will vary. But there are several items to review before the busy tour season.

That review should start with advertising.

“You want to make sure you’re advertising your walking tours and hiking trips correctly,” Rucker explained. “You need to accurately describe how strenuous the trips will be. You don’t want to market something super advanced as easy or that beginners can do it.” The more informed participants are, the better experience everyone will have.

Poorly advertised or misleading information about a trip can lead to illness, altitude sickness for example, or injuries ranging from scrapes to broken bones. The better the trip is described the better prepared guests will be for their experience.

Likewise, another key thing is knowing the terrain. Winter weather can cause quite a bit of damage and trail changes so making sure you and your team are knowledgeable about current trail conditions and routes is critical.

Guides should be well trained in both first aid and the safety procedures of both the employer and the area they are operating in. Any changes to their outfit’s safety or operational protocols should be clearly communicated to all staff. These procedures are key in the event of an emergency.

Rucker added that it’s vital for operations to review any waivers they have adventurers’ sign to ensure that they are still adequate and cover all of the operations.

Best practice would be to have an attorney in your area review the waiver for state and local law acceptability. This ensures that guests are signing enforceable releases and that they are fully aware of the potential dangers of participating.

Recreation: Lodges, Resorts and More

Resort and Fishing lodges, camping facilities, or other similar recreational lodging operations will have some risk overlap with watercraft, hiking, or other outdoor activities.

But they will also have the added risks that come with hosting guests.

“In addition to the same exposures that guides see, they’ll have to make sure their premises is well maintained,” Rucker said. “They have the same training needs for guides, the same need to review and inspect equipment, and the same program information needs.

“However, they also have the additional responsibility of ensuring the premises and buildings are all in good condition. Some recreation sites will have additional activities available for guests, like tennis courts or playgrounds.”

Rucker said reviewing equipment, such as making sure the basketball hoop isn’t rusty and the pole isn’t failing, ensuring adequate ground cover at the playground, or that rentable equipment is in good condition, is important to prevent injury.

Resorts may have double duty to make sure that both their own facilities are in good condition and well maintained, and also making sure that any public trails through their property are in good condition as well.

“That’s where a lodge has more exposures. Are there large cracks or upheaval areas in the sidewalk? Are there railings on all the stairs?” Rucker said. “They can’t prevent every slip and fall, but they do have a responsibility to make sure the lodge’s premises are up to code and as safe as reasonably possible.”

The Best Risk Strategy Yet

What risk professionals in these outdoor activity settings understand is that the risks their operations face are unique to the activities they offer. And so, after reviewing their summer prep checklists and gearing up for the season, they know the best thing to do is find partners that will help keep their adventures safe.

“A company that has experience with this type of risk and understands the outdoor sector will be more beneficial than not,” said Rucker.

“Maybe you need auto-monitoring or risk management help in terms of managing vacant property during downtime,” she continued. “A carrier that knows the risks can help be the catalyst for a safe summer for your visitors and prevent large claims.” &

Autumn Demberger is the content strategist at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected].

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