Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Special Events in Balance

By: | August 4, 2014

Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the director of risk and safety — city safety and compliance officer for a municipality in Upstate New York and is a director at large and delegate for the government and public sector division of the National Safety Council. She can be reached at [email protected]

Public sector risk managers in attractive destinations entertain a bevy of special event requests for their communities on any given day. Those requests range from road races to festivals, but each involves the use of public roadways and public land.

The problem is this: While every weekend is an opportunity for an event to raise money for a community cause, the public deserves the right to quiet enjoyment of that same public space they pay for through their taxes.

For those communities that market themselves as business and vacation destinations, the balance is to provide entertainment and diversity while attempting to maintain a sense of normalcy for the community who lives there year ’round.

There is a constant tug of war between community organizations to line up events and take ownership of weekends years in advance. Many of them present an argument for legacy treatment.

The question then becomes, how many events does a community have the capacity to host on any given weekend? Who decides which event is more important or which cause gets rejected because the weekend calendar is already filled to capacity?

The imagination and energy of every community group should be commended. Their ideas are inspiring and add to the fabric of each community, bringing visitors and helping to fund our tax bases.

How many public risk professionals, however, have received an email accusing them of neglecting an orphan or some other cause because their risk management team has identified deficiencies in a special event application? Or the request for the event is so out of bounds that the community simply cannot safely provide a public venue?

It’s difficult to explain how “event weary” public entities can become as the seasons progress.

Risk managers continue to be amazed by the ingenuity of our special event organizers, but those same risk managers often face a no-win situation; balancing the event with the limitations of a municipal budget and the need for public safety.

Fireworks require fire marshals; road closures require police officers; and special events need to be cleaned up so that life can return to normal — at least until the next event!

The closing of roads for a race means neighborhood disruptions. Let’s be honest, neighbors spend weekends catching up on life. Road closures often throw a wrench into those plans.

Remember that word, balance. It’s tough to maintain as communities strive to attract visitors while continuing to maintain an attractive lifestyle.

The biggest fear public risk professionals have is not doing enough to keep visitors safe when they are recreating.

Be patient as you go about planning your next event. All of our collective arms are open and our smiles genuine, but planning takes community balance and cooperation.

Read all of Marilyn Rivers’ Risk Insider contributions.

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