Risk Management Planning

Emergency Preparation – good practices vs. overkill

September 15, 2014

Alison Epperson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Health Ed.
Murray State University

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series.

In Recreation, we take (or at least we should), the weather seriously; we know, respect and remain diligent in our education and training when it comes to our staff and participants. We have radars, alerts, apps, email, texts, and even social media to keep us up to date at all times of the day and probably have enough experience to apply for a meteorologist position. Safety is our duty! For the most part, campus recreation programs and facilities need to think about tornados, snow/ice storms and of course hurricanes for coastal locations.

In moving to the faculty side of campus, I’ve heard my share of “I walked to school five miles each way barefoot in a snow storm” stories and “I’m not canceling class, it’s not that bad and students are required to be here, or they can take an unexcused absence!”

I’ve been on both sides; as a student commuting two hours to another school in another state for my PhD. In my first semester, a tornado watch was issued for the entire region, which included my town all the way through my school. I emailed my professor and indicated that I was nervous about being on the road for four hours round trip and the three hours of class time. My response was basically, “if you’re not here, you will not be allowed to make up the work…” Reading between the lines, I understood that I was expected to be there. I got in the car and drove, dodging storms until I just had to turn around and come home. I was only excused because there was a confirmed tornado in my path.

This experience really changed how I viewed the expectations of ‘responsibility’ on both ends, both as a student and an employer. Granted, some people will take the forecast of a possible heavy rain and thunderstorm (minus any warning) as an excuse to stay home ‘just to be safe’ as far as they can. However, for the first time in my 16 years of employment on this campus, this past October(!), professors started cancelling late afternoon and night classes at lunchtime due to the ‘high threat of damaging winds and intense storms.” Both the local and national weather services, as well as everyone in between were in a state of panic to the extent of dismissing school early. I too cancelled my class because I have commuters and relating to my own experience, I understood their concern.

Ironically, as I sat at home with my terrified son and dog waiting for the predicted 80 mph winds, downed power lines and trees to hit Murray, it didn’t. It hit all around us, but not our town. We just got a lot of rain! In confusion, I kept watching the radar and the news, hearing reports about damage all around us, but nothing more than flooding for us.

While I’m not going to say that I didn’t enjoy my early night at home and quality time with my son, I’ll admit I felt kind of stupid (as did a majority of our faculty) at canceling class 6 hours early and falling in line with the rest of the community in our effort to ensure student safety.

Unfortunately, it is situations just like these that just reinforce those who feel we are too quick to panic. It’s like the boy who cried wolf.

In relation to your programs and staff (club sports, fitness, recreation centers, intramural staff and officials), it may be time to think about a well-written policy ‘in the event of a weather-related emergency.’ You may need to get down to total nit picking, to establish clear expectations while maintaining the safety and wellbeing of everyone. As most of you already know, it is always better to have something in writing that everyone understands and agrees to as party of their employment.

For example, if you have flag football games planned from 6-10 pm and a tornado watch (not a warning) has been issued for that exact time span, what would you expect of your staff? It would most likely be to your advantage to have a policy that states staff and officials are expected to remain at work until such time (and you may even determine a time or distance) that it appears eminent that dangerous weather is approaching.

Part of your staff training could be that they understand and pre-plan a designated safety location if this happens. This offers protection to you as an employer in that you clearly explained and agreed upon these terms for employment in regards to ‘reasonable expectations.’ You are not forcing someone to wait until the last minute only to be swept up and on their way to OZ, therefore, these types of policies could be a way to prevent being accused of negligence. I would highly recommend you also consult with your University Legal Council before putting anything into place or creating a policy; I’m just suggesting food for thought.

Likewise, if you force someone to come to work when a weather alert has been issued and the storm approaches faster than expected, or a tree or power line goes down and that person is somehow affected, where does the responsibility lie? “Weather” occurs, that’s just the reality, but consider all the legal and ethical ramifications surrounding ‘reasonable expectations.’ If guidelines and expectations are not spelled out and agreed upon, you will find yourself with lots of people ‘erring on the side of caution’ and not coming to work – what do you do then? Do you shut down and cause a stir because your programs and services aren’t in operation…?

During the winter of 2014, our campus was shut down a total of five days – that’s a record for our school. Not all at once, but three consecutive days which I don’t ever remember happening before (and I’ve lived here since 1978). Here’s what got me, we got into this ‘essential vs nonessential staff’ quandary – the grounds crew were working around the clock to remove snow and ice in an effort to increase accessibility, but that didn’t solve the problem for those who couldn’t get out of their own driveway, or travel down the ice packed roadways that were not properly prepped by the city!

Bottom line, the out-of-the-ordinary is unfortunately becoming somewhat of a norm. There’s no question climate change is changing the types and amounts of weather blasting across the country. Make a plan, be prepared!

Part 2 in this series will focus on staff training.


Because One CPR Class is Not Enough: Part 1

September 15, 2014

Looking beyond into student learning, preparedness, and assessment

Shannon Dere
University of Arkansas

Julie Saldiva
Texas State University

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two parts.

Risk Management, the big buzz word floating around campus recreation right now, has a lot of recreation professionals on edge but many may not be quite sure of how to go about managing risk properly. One of the biggest risks that campus recreation departments have involves their student staff. Generally speaking, these staff members are expected to work front-line operations and carry out daily risk management practices, including applying first aid and CPR/AED skills when needed. But are we properly preparing our students to succeed in situations where this knowledge and these skills will be needed most?

Many campus recreation programs are taking a proactive step in ensuring that most or all student staff is trained in CPR/AED and first aid, however, many programs stop after the initial certification class. Most of these certifications, regardless of the provider, last typically from one to three years before a renewal is needed. Additionally, many certification providers are not only simplifying the techniques they teach, but also offer online courses where students never have the opportunity to practice their skills. With such a variation of training and certification renewal options, inconsistencies in knowledge and skills are significant, and student staff are likely to forget much of their training. Read more

Feeding the Risk Gap

September 15, 2014

Feeding the Risk Gap
…. and getting buy-in from Risk Management

Mark Oldmixon
Director of Recreation, Adventure and Wellness
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Campus recreation programs struggle to find the balance between providing students with programs/sports/activities that are often perceived as ‘high-risk’ while avoiding administrative concerns for major liability. The advantage campus recreation programs have is the statistical research reflecting a generation who is exposed to risk-taking behavior at all times and are therefore going to engage in other risk taking behaviors which often lead to poor academic success. By providing the programs and opportunities for students to engage in more physical and social activities, the likelihood that they will engage in drinking, drugs, and other reckless behavior decreases.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ risk story has a large asterisk associated: *takes place in Fairbanks, Alaska.

  1. Residents of Alaska are naturally accepting of everyday risks and comfortable living with in environments not suitable to most in the lower 48 states.
  2. Temperatures in winter regularly dip below -30F.
  3. Children play at recess until -20F. Fairbanks’ shortest day sees a little more than 3 hours of sunlight.
  4. It is a notable day when it doesn’t snow in the winter.
  5. School is only cancelled in winter when temps climb too high and things melt.
  6. Over 5% of Fairbanks’ population doesn’t have running water, showers or toilets.

And these are just the urban risks! Risk increases significantly as soon as you leave the city boundaries and ultimately you must rely on self-rescue techniques. Read more

Concussions in Collegiate Recreation: Are we prepared?

September 15, 2014

Ann Wittkopp
Head Athletic Trainer
Central Washington University-Recreation

 This article is the first in an ongoing series about concussions and other relevant sports medicine topics in collegiate recreation.

Concussions have frequented the news in the last several years. The NFL and ESPN have made sure that anyone who watches professional football is well aware of the word” concussion.” But how much do we really know about concussions? What constitutes a concussion? What does the peer-reviewed literature say about concussions? Until recently, concussions were only referred to as ‘mild head injuries’; due to misconception of the severity of the injury, they are now referred to as ‘mild traumatic brain injuries.’

As an athletic trainer working in collegiate recreation, I have seen more than my fair share of concussions with varying degrees of symptoms and duration; what always concerns me, however, is the complete lack of concern (and sometimes disregard) most patients have for the injury itself and what it means for his/her health, and potential future. Read more

Risk Management in Intramural Quidditch

February 25, 2014

Jack Butler, Director of Intramural Sports, Northeastern University
Ryan Garcia Townzen, Intramural Coordinator, University of Minnesota

In the pages of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Quidditch is a sport played by wizards and witches whizzing about on magical flying brooms. “Muggles” quidditch is a version of the game played without the aforementioned and impossible magical equipment. Since its invention, the sport has grown in popularity across the globe. The sport’s governing body, the International Quidditch Association (IQA), boasts that the sport is now played at “over 300 universities and high schools throughout North America, Australia, and Europe” (IQA, 2013). However, the majority of these schools only offer it as a club sport. This article examines the rule and policy changes that need to be made in order to offer a safe, yet fun version of intramural quidditch.

What makes club quidditch potentially too unsafe to offer as an intramural sport? To begin with the rules allow for players to tackle one another as a means of playing defense. There can also be full speed collisions between “chasers” and “keepers.” Another problem is that the “snitch” and the “seekers” area of play is technically unlimited and can be well out of the officials range of vision. But just as the traditional rules of football, hockey and soccer can be modified to create a safer playing environment, so can “club” quidditch be tamed enough to make it an intramural sport.
Read more

Page 4 of 12« First...23456...10...Last »
For more information on our Online Courses,
contact us now!