5 Tips to Safer Outdoor Events

Wine Glasses on Outdoor Table Setup

Outdoor events can be great for lots of groups and in conjunction with meetings. Finding the venue, determining the activity or activities, I'll leave to others. Ensuring safety is more my bailiwick. Whether you're planning a company picnic, an incentive program, an off-site activity, high school reunion, or other event, the safety of those attending is your main concern.

1. Consider your audience

  • Many people on certain medications or with certain illnesses cannot be out in the sun. Period. Not with sunscreen. Not in the shade which still allows sun through. Determine how to include them indoors while others are out.
  • People with different abilities may be unable to easily participate because of mobility, hearing or sight. It's much more difficult to hear an interpreter, for example, in bright light! And using a wheelchair or scooter or other mobility device may prove a challenge on rocky, sandy, or other terrain. Everyone wants to be included; determine ahead of time how you will.
  • Different abilities and cultural differences may prohibit some from participating in an outdoor activity. Consider everyone so that they are included in some way.

2. Environmental issues

  • Consider the impact on the environment of people tramping around. Work with local agencies to ensure it's a smart thing to do.
  • Have recycling containers for items and trash containers so you don't leave a mess (As a D.C. resident, I am horrified at the messes people leave on the Mall after an event). Make sure you're prepared.
  • Drought and other environmental issues can equal lots of dust which may cause a breathing hazard and certainly can bring a dust storm that would pose a hazard for travel. 

3. Food & Beverage: Preparation and consumption

  • My mom and grandmom told me never to eat food with mayo or any food that was sitting out in the sun. I haven't deviated from that rule and have (so far!) remained healthy when attending outdoor events. Determine how a caterer or venue will prepare and serve food and what will keep it hot (other than the sun!) and cold. Food poisoning could ruin any event, indoors or out.
  • Alcohol and sun and heat do not mix. Oh sure, "everyone" does it and if it's your event, consider if the alcohol is really necessary and how you will ensure safety for everyone.
  • WATER and lots of it (if possible). Of course in the areas where there's drought (which means a whole bunch of the world right now) there may not be enough water to be served. Consider how you will keep people hydrated to ensure their health and safety and limit your and your meeting sponsor's liability.

4. Medical and other emergencies

  • When selecting the venue, find out, just as you do for a hotel in any area, where the closest emergency facilities are and how easily they can (or cannot) get to the site of your event. If your activity is off-shore, literally, know how quickly can the Coast Guard or other water rescue personnel reach your group and how to reach them.
  • Determine what first aid supplies the venue has and what you need to bring. Know how many people responsible for the event are trained in CPR. At the very least, have an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) with you and a well-equipped and updated First Aid Kit.

5. Prepare participants

  • Some people don't know enough about their health to know that exertion may hurt or even kill them. Even healthy people may not know. Get activity waivers (some great examples are found online in a search; they are not presented here because of...liability) which help limit liability.
  • Explain to people ahead of time what they'll be doing and suggest that if they're not sure they can participate, they should get a doctor's note.
  • Tell them what to bring (sun screen, insect repellent, hats and visors, long sleeve shirts, jackets or sweaters, etc.) and what not to bring OR how you'll protect their valuables. I'm a fan of these kits from the Red Cross as amenities for meetings generally and certainly for events where someone may need emergency tools. Scroll down to the area of the Student Emergency Kits for more.

I hope many of you will add to this beginning list of what to do–which may include how to check references on vendors and facilities to find out their safety record.

Enjoy the summer...and be safe!

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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