The biggest risk operators take on an ordinary day is opening their doors to the public. Once the doors open and people start spilling in, the risks skyrocket. Amusement parks, water parks, family entertainment centers (FECs), carnivals, and everything in between are exposed to dozens of known and unknown risks every day they let guests through the ticket gates.
The most experienced operators know the next accident is a matter of “when” and not “if” – and take a proactive approach to mitigate risk.
Prepare staff to anticipate and stop potential problems
The best way to avoid problems is to practice incident prevention. Start by brainstorming with your team to anticipate incidents before they happen. Gather your supervisors and managers and have an extensive session focused on everything that could go wrong.
You’ll notice two immediate benefits during this incident prevention exercise:
- You will begin to think about the best ways to respond to different scenarios and start creating and fine-tuning your crisis response plan.
- You will discover that many situations are preventable with simple modifications to existing operational methods.
It’s much better to get your plan in place before a crisis occurs. In the heat of the moment, the less you have to think about what to do, the better your chances at mitigating damage and preventing injuries.
The more scenarios you can think of, the more prepared you’ll be to address these potential crises and possibly avert them altogether. After you’ve identified problems that may arise, evaluate your corporate policies and business processes to identify any changes needed to avoid pitfalls.
Develop a crisis management plan
A crisis can last a few hours to several days or longer. Your team must make decisions quickly in each situation to limit damage to the organization, key stakeholders, and the public. A crisis management plan frees your management team and frontline staff to act quickly in a crisis scenario. An effective crisis management plan should include these details:
- Documentation explaining what criteria will be used to define a crisis event.
- Established monitoring systems and best practices to detect early warning signals of any potential crisis.
- Identification of the spokesperson(s) in the event of a crisis.
- A list of key emergency contacts.
- Documentation of who will need to be notified during a crisis and how that notification will be made.
- A defined process for assessing an incident, its potential severity, and its impact on the facilities and employees.
- Detailed procedures of how to respond to a crisis and emergency assembly points where employees can go.
- Documentation detailing a strategy for social media and website posting and responses.
- A process for testing the effectiveness of the crisis management plan and a schedule for updating it regularly.
Create a crisis communication strategy
Communication is vital for getting through a crisis because by keeping people informed, most will stay calm. As the situation develops and new information becomes available, it’s essential to keep people updated. Employees are looking to management for leadership in high-stress scenarios. Lack of communication can increase fear and create more issues.
Designate a crisis communications team. Make sure all team members can deliver information in a clear, concise, and truthful manner. You can proactively create templates for potential scenarios and designate appropriate communications personnel for each, leaving spaces for actual details when an incident occurs.
It’s critical to test your crisis communication plan regularly to ensure it will hold up in the event of a real-world incident. For example, an organization could run through its call tree, or management could periodically send out automated messaging tests.
Managing social media during a crisis
If you schedule social media posts in advance through a third-party platform such as Hootsuite, turn off the scheduled posts immediately. Planned posts not related to the incident can appear insensitive and misleading. An effective social media strategy will acknowledge the crisis and provide updates. Be sure to show empathy, especially if there are injuries or damage.
Create a social media response plan that includes:
- How you will communicate internally.
- The approval process for what you’ll post on social media.
- Your social media policy.
- Who will do what and when in each department.
Read more: Increasing Confidence With Guest Communication Best Practices
What to do when a ‘freak accident’ occurs
The unpredictable crises are often the most devastating. In the amusement and entertainment industry, the risk of severe injuries or loss of life is an ever-present danger, if rare.
Although you can never be prepared fully for these kinds of crises, solid incident prevention and preparation will provide you with an excellent foundation. In these cases, it’s recommended to have a crisis specialist on call to hire quickly—along with legal counsel—to help you navigate the aftermath.
Incident reporting best practices
Every incident should be reported, documented, and investigated. Incident reports should be stored in a manner that allows your company to review and interpret the report data to prevent incidents of a similar nature. Designated staff should generate reports for the following types of incidents:
- Customer complaints.
- Property or equipment damage.
- On the job motor vehicle accidents.
- At work illnesses or health complications related to workplace conditions.
- Employee injuries or deaths.
- Guests or other individuals falling ill, experiencing an injury, health complications, or death.
- Recognition of hazards, such as unsafe behavior and conditions, to bring to the attention of management.
Read more: 360 Degree Threat Assessment
Extra security for your incident preparation
Don’t wait to put a proper plan together until after the damage is done. Do the work now to prevent future crises and mitigate risk. Does your insurance cover you for all the potential crises — minor accidents, injuries, and active shooter?
By partnering with McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance, you get an insurance company with a deep understanding of your amusement or entertainment coverage.