Risk management for public entities: Event Safety and Risk

As public health restrictions related to COVID-19 begin to be lifted, many municipalities are moving forward with plans to host large community events. Many types of events can be held on municipal property, and each will have a unique risk profile.

Speaker on the podium. People at conference hall, rear view

As public health restrictions related to COVID-19 begin to be lifted, many municipalities are moving forward with plans to host large community events. Many types of events can be held on municipal property, and each will have a unique risk profile.

By developing a standardized risk management plan for events, you can help identify and address exposures, enabling you to put in place the appropriate safety measures.

The below guidance can be used to inform decision-making on how to plan and deliver your events. It should not be taken as an exhaustive list and should be used in conjunction with your internal policies and procedures. Consider the following calls to action when developing and implementing your event’s risk management plan:

Event planning

Create an event planning group, which will be accountable for managing all aspects of event planning and operations, including centrally managing risks, through the following positions:

  • Individual risk lead:
    • Directs development of the event’s risk management policy
    • Manages risk management activities, including risk identification and evaluation activities
    • Handles development and implementation of risk controls
  • Risk committee
    • Oversees appropriate identification of risks and development of risk management plan
    • Verifies safety measures comply with bylaws, rules, and regulations
    • Confirms event aligns with corporate values and objectives
  • Executive sponsor
    • Champions event planning and stakeholder engagement
    • Assumes overall management of event risks

Food and beverage

If your event will have food and beverages — especially alcohol — available, you should pay special attention to their safe preparation, handling, and distribution:

  • Preparation and handling
    • Provide staff and volunteers with access to hand washing stations
    • Require staff and volunteers perform proper hand hygiene prior to handling any food
    • Obtain the necessary food handling certifications
    • Store all food and beverage at a safe temperature and in appropriate containers
  • Distribution
  • If serving alcoholic beverages:
    • Have available a variety of non-alcoholic alternatives
    • Only provide attendees with one alcoholic beverage at a time
    • Avoid serving alcoholic beverages larger than the standard serving size (for example, “tall boy” drinks)
    • Avoid serving shooter liquors
    • Secure the appropriate liquor license
    • Verify staff and volunteers have obtained appropriate certifications prior to serving

Crowd management and control

For events where there is expected to be a large number of attendees, help mitigate risk by taking the following precautions:

  • Crowd management
    • Design event layout to reduce concentrated crowd density and not obstruct emergency exits, security, and first aid stations
  • Crowd control
    • Establish an incident response plan, designated holding area, and exit routes for unruly attendees

Event security

Protect the safety of all event staff, volunteers, and attendees with a robust physical security plan, which can include a combination of the following measures, appropriate to the risk profile of the event:

  • Passive security measures
    • Post signage indicating that premises are under video surveillance
    • Post signage including contact information and location of event security
    • Ensure that security staff are in clearly visible uniforms
    • Clearly designate all security stations and checkpoints
  • Active security measures
    • Position security checkpoints at entrances and exits
    • Install security stations in strategic locations, especially where the full event venue and key areas are clearly visible
    • Arrange security patrols throughout the event
    • Implement a security communication system
      • Establish an incident response plan, with special considerations for:
      • Medical emergencies
      • Evacuation emergencies
      • Fire emergencies
      • Active shooters
  • Private security
    • Confirm all third-party security staff have obtained the appropriate certifications
    • Provide clear roles and responsibilities for third-party security providers
    • Implement patrol schedules
    • Institute documentation requirements for all activities
    • Establish coordination protocol between event management and law enforcement agency
  • Local law enforcement
    • Establish station location
    • Implement security patrol schedules
    • Establish coordination protocol between event management and private security

Rides and inflatables

For events that will include rides and inflatable apparatus, consider how these devices are maintained and operated:

  • Post appropriate signage for safe usage, such as height or weight requirements
  • Ensure there is a staff operator available at all times to monitor activities and operate any equipment
  • Obtain municipal approval for use


Having the appropriate signage throughout the event keeps attendees informed of areas of interest, which include the following:

  • Event entrances and exits
  • Emergency exits
  • Capacity limits
  • Concession areas
  • First aid stations
  • Security stations
  • Garbage and recycling disposal areas


As municipalities move forward with community events, each will require planning that addresses its unique risk profile. By adopting a standardized approach to developing a risk management plan, you can help ensure that the event is enjoyable and safe for all involved.


If you have questions regarding event planning, please contact your Marsh representative.