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Public entity risk managers should address potential property risks stemming from public protests similar to the way they would an impending storm, property loss control experts say.
“It's pre-emptive; you protect it the same way you might protect it if there were a hurricane warning. You take the necessary steps to mitigate or prevent any damage to property that might occur,” said Mark Goode, executive vp and head of the public entity practice at Willis North America in Charlotte, N.C.
Mary Breighner, Cincinnati-based vp and global education, health care and public entities practice leader at Factory Mutual Insurance Co., which does business as FM Global, recommends that public entity risk managers perform a threat analysis and develop a contingency plan that takes into consideration all possible scenarios.
“It's necessary for the public entity—whether it's a municipality or a university—to try to get out in front, establish boundaries and protect property as best you can, and let the protesters know that you're going to be protecting your property. And while they may have access to the property, they can't damage it,” Ms. Breighner said.
“Think of it along a continuum in terms of what might happen. It might be a peaceful protest with a lot of people in a park area. You want to protect the property, make sure there are enough trash receptacles, portable bathrooms, remove anything that could be used as a projectile,” she said.
In addition, “if you have any signs or flags that could be destroyed, desecrated or damaged, you might want to take them down. If they move onto other properties nearer to buildings, you might want to make sure all of your building entrances are locked, if possible,” Ms. Breighner said.
Such risk management strategies were employed in Chicago during the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit, she noted.
Under the civic use policies in place at community colleges throughout California, “they could direct the Occupy Wall Street protesters to a specific spot on campus and say, "That's your spot, that's where you're allowed to go,'” said John Chino, senior vp at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. in Aliso Viejo, Calif.