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Rodd Zolkos

Event Safety Alliance sets guidelines aimed at reducing risks at music events

Organization issues guidebook, plans training schedule

March 2, 2014 - 6:00am

The collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair in August 2011 killed seven people and injured 58 others.

The collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair in August 2011 killed seven people and injured 58 others.


An organization that aims to increase safety and reduce risks at live music events is hoping the resources it provides become a global standard for production of such events.

And, as they involve the insurance industry in their efforts, they hope event producers that utilize the guidelines and training they're creating will see the benefit of reduced premiums and increased coverage availability.

The Event Safety Alliance's formation stemmed largely from a series of stage collapses that occurred at various festivals in 2011, most notably the collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair in August of that year that killed seven people and injured 58 others.

“My selfish reason is that when my five-year-old grows up and goes to shows he comes home,” said Jim Digby, founder and executive director of the alliance. “The overwhelming feeling early on was that if we didn't do it and God forbid there was another incident like the one in Indiana, government was going to do it for us.”

“The expressly stated goal of ESA is to have people put life safety first,” said Steven Adelman, vice president of the ESA and head of the Adelman Law Group P.L.L.C. in Scottsdale, Ariz. “The original thought of having an Event Safety Alliance is we want people to be able to go to live events and not die. It's a simple as that.”

The alliance formed in 2012 based on a realization that there was no single source for event producers to use as a risk management and safety resource, said Lauren Bailey, vice president of entertainment insurance at Novato, Calif.-based Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., which recently became a sponsor of the alliance.

“One of the most important pieces I think will be coming out of this will be the education and training,” said Ms. Bailey, who is a director of the Scottsdale, Ariz. organization.

Mr. Digby is owner of Collaborative Endeavor Group, a Downington, Pa.-based international live entertainment touring and production strategies and solutions firm. Members of the alliance include various participants involved in staging a live music event.

Nearly 3,000 individuals have registered with the organization so far through its www.eventsafety-alliance.org website.

Among the keys to the group's efforts is its Event Safety Guide, released in February, and planned educational events, the first of which is scheduled for December.

“That was job one, the creation of the guide,” said Mr. Digby.

“The U.K. has had an event safety guide, which is their best practices, around for years,” said James Chippendale, CEO of Ascend Insurance Brokerage in Austin, Texas, and a founding contributor of the alliance. “It was time to adapt and adopt that guide to the U.S. standards.”

“The hope is this will become the global best practices for the industry,” Mr. Chippendale said.

The guidebook is “not intended to be a recitation of the laws of each state,” said Roger Sandau, CEO of Doodson Insurance Brokerage, a division of Integro USA Inc., in Baltimore. “What it's intended to be is a framework for people to work within.”

And, Mr. Sandau said, “It's not to be used only on one side or for one participant. It's to create a common discussion point for all of the participants.”

“One thing I learned from (Chicago's) Lollapalooza: The key to having a safe event is having clear communications and knowing what every person is going to do in the event of an emergency,” said Mr. Chippendale, whose firm works with 100 medium-size and large music festivals and hundreds of smaller events each year on their insurance coverage and risk management. “You don't want to sit there and have, "What are we going to do now' conversations when you have a storm or a threat coming at you.”

Nearly two years of work went into the Event Safety Guide, including vetting by major concert production companies, Mr. Chippendale said. The existing U.K. guide served as a basis for the project.

Mr. Digby recalled nearly a year of bi-weekly conference calls “with as many folks as we could get on the phone” as the group looked to shape the safety guide's content.

The group chose “not to reinvent the wheel,” Mr. Adelman said. Instead, they made “the existing body of knowledge of event safety more accessible to the boots on the ground.”

“Our task was to take the very large, rather difficult existing body of knowledge and make it simpler,” Mr. Adelman said. “It's great to have technical standards, but if the people who need them don't even bother to read them and probably don't even know of their existence, it doesn't help get the job done.”

The finished guide addresses topics that include emergency planning, weather preparedness and fire safety as well as technical issues such as pyrotechnics, rigging and temporary staging. It is “really quite usable,” Mr. Adelman said.

“We see the guide as the anchor point for everything that happens next,” said Mr. Digby.

Event Safety Alliance representatives appear regularly at industry events to promote event safety and the organization's efforts. With the help of Fireman's Fund, the group plans to hold its first safety training institute in December. The institute will be a several-day course to teach aspects of the Event Safety Guide and further the application of those standards, Mr. Adelman said.

Heading into 2015, the alliance ideally would like to hold such an educational event once a quarter in different parts of the country, said Fireman's Fund's Ms. Bailey. “Based on some of the discussion we've had with people, there's a high degree of interest in attendance,” she said.

Utilization of the alliance's resources and following the guidebook should benefit event producers as they seek coverage for their events, many of those involved with the group believe.

“We have reached out to the insurance community to involve them in putting the Event Safety Guide together and in promoting the Event Safety Alliance,” said Mr. Sandau. “We would hope that an organization that avails themselves of (the alliance's resources) would see a benefit in terms of insurance pricing and the terms and conditions they're receiving.”

“The insurance companies have gotten behind that,” said Mr. Chippendale. “I think the insurance companies should support that whether it's premium discounts or additional coverage.”

“We identified early on through James Chippendale that this wasn't going to work until we got the insurance companies in on it,” Mr. Digby said.

 



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