Whether you manage a rafting operation in the Grand Canyon, a hunting club in Montana or offer heli-skiing in the back-country of Alaska, it can be all fun and games until someone gets hurt, or even dies. More than 4 million injuries resulted from extreme sports accidents from 2000 through 2011, according to data collected by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. It's clear that every adventure sports business comes with major liabilities that need to be addressed.
So if you manage an adventure sports excursion, what can you do before there’s an accident? Below are some risk management steps that should be taken to help avoid an insurance pitfall:
1. Prepare for the worst: Expect the unexpected and prepare for it. No one wakes up the morning of a major accident and thinks, “It’s a great day for a loss.” Make sure you have written incident response and evacuation plans for all types of accidents you may face. Don’t just write down your plans and file them away, Practice them with your staff on a regular basis. This cannot be emphasized enough. Time is crucial in a burial situation and having a well-trained staff is key. Make sure your staff understands their role when responding to an accident to ensure a quick response times during a serious incident.
2. Monitor the weather: Know your local weather patterns and plan accordingly. As we all know, conditions can take a turn for the worse in a moment’s notice. Constantly check water flows and weather in your area. Having advanced knowledge of how weather systems work in your area can mean the difference between a “go” and “no-go” scenario. To stay prepared, have written procedures that include “go” and “no-go” trigger points.
3. Be responsive: In an emergency, be prepared to respond to the family and local authorities as quickly and professionally as possible in the event of a loss. Advise your staff not to discuss it with the media or on social media.
4. Make sure all parties are safe: Don’t forget about the other parties on the trip if there is an accident. Merely witnessing a traumatic event can have lasting effects. Also, be sure to ask about and understand any prior medical conditions your clients may have. There has been an increase in fatalities related to heart conditions and cold water immersion.
5. Study your insurance plan: Review your insurance annually with your agent. Make sure they understand all of the activities you offer. Certain activities are excluded unless underwritten for in advance. To avoid gaps in coverage, make sure you discuss all your operations with your agent. Also, review your liability releases annually with a lawyer. A properly drafted release is the foundation to defending your company in court. We cannot stress enough how vital this is. Whether your company is big or small, all outfitters and guides need a strong release. In the event of an accident, secure the original waiver and lock it away, only copies should be supplied to official requesting parties.