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Guest Column: 4 Risk Management Tactics for Music Festival Promoters

Don't go viral for the wrong reasons. Here's how careful risk management planning can help avoid crises.

Risk management for music festivals should begin well before the event and can address everything from inadequate lighting to drug and alcohol use.
Risk management for music festivals should begin well before the event and can address everything from inadequate lighting to drug and alcohol use.
Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images for Bacardi

Mike Kelly, risk control manager at ProSight Specialty Insurance, works with clients ranging from production companies for feature films, music festivals, motorsports, professional rodeo, and this year’s Super Bowl. Kelly is a certified safety professional and a certified entertainment industry fire safety officer.

Music festival season is nearly upon us. Tickets to major festivals are now on sale with lineups being announced and vendor contracts becoming finalized. Though booking the perfect act and crafting unique experiences can help attract attendees, careful risk management planning is key in driving a successful event. Event promoters of all experience levels—whether running first-time, local events, or weeklong music extravaganzas—can run into difficult, unexpected issues that can lead to crises. Promoters can help prevent live events from going viral for the wrong reasons by employing these four risk management tactics.

1. Include a risk manager in the planning process.
Risks for live music events can come from anywhere; everything from inadequate lighting to drug and alcohol use can cause problems at a festival. Risk managers have two priorities: keep guests safe and keep event producers out of litigation. In addition to being part of the planning process, risk managers should be on site well before guests arrive to check the venue for potential issues to take preventative action. The risk manager should also be in touch with key safety players before and during the event, including the local police and fire departments, as well as your medical team. A thorough risk check can help prevent accidents from happening and ultimately reduce the chance of lawsuits.

2. Identify the authority having jurisdiction.
This is the organization or office responsible for holding your event to code. Since the standards to which you can be held accountable may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it’s important to identify and communicate with the applicable local authority. Hiring a risk manager with strong familiarity with your event’s authority will be helpful in mitigating these types of scenarios.

3. Create a solid emergency action plan.
Festival patrons have an expectation of safety when attending your event. It’s your obligation to identify those emergencies that are reasonably foreseeable and develop appropriate response procedures. While there are essential elements common to all emergency action plans, each festival’s plan should be crafted for that specific event to ensure it addresses all local jurisdictional requirements. The development of the emergency action plan should be a collaborative effort between the event promoter and the risk manager to ensure all responsibilities are properly delegated and clearly understood. Once completed, implement formal, documented procedures to communicate the plan with staff, vendors, security, and anyone else working to make the event happen. Event promoters should use every available way to communicate with patrons in case of an emergency, which may include an on-site PA system, video screens, social media, or a custom event app.

4. Prepare your medical team.
Promoters should thoroughly prepare their team to handle ill or injured attendees. Hire a trusted medical director to lead the team and make sure that this person is in constant communication with both your risk manager and your security director. The placement of medical tents is crucial. Attendees should be able to easily identify and access medical staff at various locations within your venue. Make sure that your team includes mental health professionals, since incapacitated patrons may need psychological assistance. Another idea for event planners is to use teams of roving medical staff members to proactively identify individuals who may be in need of medical assistance.

These preventative actions can strengthen your defense for keeping music festival attendees and vendors safe.

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