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While parks and playgrounds may be bastions of low technology, the Park District Risk Management Agency is fast becoming a high-tech information hub for its members.
"We want to be more the leader than the follower with our members," commented Betsy Kutska, executive director of PDRMA.
The agency six months ago unveiled its World Wide Web site (http://www.pdrma.org), an online information resource that will be expanded in the next several years.
As members gain access to the Internet, they will be able to receive information instantaneously from PDRMA and use the Web site as an electronic clearinghouse, Ms. Kutska noted.
"Any time you want to change anything, it's horrendous to get the information out," Ms. Kutska said.
Updating "those great big manuals" necessary for risk management is tedious and time-consuming.
However, using technology such as the Web site facilitates this process significantly.
Technology "makes us more productive and makes members more productive," Ms. Kutska said.
Eventually, PDRMA hopes to supply each member with a dedicated computer terminal loaded with software compatible with
the pool's software that will al-low members to file claims electronically, according to Kevin Marks, information services manager.
In the meantime, PDRMA members can log onto the group's Web page and choose from six categories of information:
Claims reporting, which includes points to remember, descriptions of types of claims
and what to do if a lawsuit is received.
PDRMA resources, including copies of all printed materials and the organization's newsletter.
Announcements, such as when training sessions will be held and electronic registration for risk management institutes.
Staff photos, titles, biographies, voice mail and electronic mail addresses.
Information about PDRMA in general.
Links to other Web sites that members may be interested in, including federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, organizations such as parks and recreation associations, and the Public Risk Management Assn., and sites on weather and other topics.
PDRMA calls all of its information resources the "Leisure Risk Network." The group's Web
site, for example, is called LRN Surf.
Another information resource is the organization's LRNFAX system.
The LRNFAX system allows members to request documents on the telephone and receive them by fax 24 hours a day.
Several hundred documents ranging from one to 12 pages are available through the system.
The documents include copies of laws and regulations, advice on topics ranging from aquatic risk management to employment practices to environmental liability, sample insurance policy endorsements, inspection forms, sample job descriptions, loss control advice, fact sheets on insurance coverages, the organization's news-letter, sample safety programs and sample waivers.
Each member has a listing arranged by subject of all documents available through the LRNFAX system.
PDRMA also maintains a library of materials generally greater than 10 pages that members can receive through the mail. Many of these materials cover the same subjects as the LRNFAX materials but are longer. Members can request these documents from a PDRMA staff member, and generally they are mailed out within one day.
Enabling members to request the specific information they need is far more efficient than giving everyone all the information that anyone might need, Ms. Kutska pointed out.
And, when members request the information they specifically need, "we find they're much more apt to use it," she said.
PDRMA issues LRN Alerts when necessary to dispatch critical information to members or as a reminder to implement important seasonal or periodic loss prevention measures.
The one-page LRN Alerts, which are printed on brightly colored paper, summarize a particular issue and recommend necessary action.
For example, a recent LRN Alert informed members of a new advisory issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urging motorists to place portable gasoline containers on the ground while filling them instead of in a truck or car because static electricity discharge from the containers could cause a fire or explosion.
In addition to printed materials, PDRMA has approximately 250 video tapes members can borrow, covering topics such as first aid, back care and ergonomics, golf, housekeeping, slips and falls and time management.
Each member has a detailed video library directory that describes each of the videos. Some of the videos are available in Spanish.
PDRMA does not plan to stick to simply distributing stocked videos. The group bought its own digital editing machine and plans to produce training and other videos, Mr. Marks said.
The organization already has produced a 15-minute video that describes the group and its activities.
The video, called "Risk Management for Parks and Recreation. ... A Long Term Solution," has been distributed to each member and can be shown to prospective members.
It is particularly useful in teaching elected officials, who may have little exposure to risk management, about the pool, according to Ms. Kutska.