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Insuring Your Church's Fall Festival

Fall Festivals and Trunk-or-Treating are popular activities hosted by many churches and while these events are sure to draw a good crowd and a good time, there will also be exposure to accidents or injuries.  David Bear joins the podcast to discuss potential risks with these two events, how churches can manage the inherent risk, and what type of insurance is necessary to cover any mishaps.



Below is a transcript of the episode, lightly modified for your reading pleasure.

* * *

[Grant FINLEY] Welcome to Your Insurance Connection Podcast.  I’m Grant Finley. 

When summer fades into fall, the party shifts from the pool to the pumpkin patch.  Many churches and other organizations will begin hosting their annual fall festivals and/or Trunk-or-Treat events.  I invited David Bear to speak with me about the insurance implications any church should be considering when preparing for these events. 

Just so we’re all on the same page at the beginning, allow David to describe what a typical fall festival looks like for any of the uninitiated among us.

[David BEAR] At a fall festival you'll find activities such as games - toss baseballs and try to knock over different items to win a prize or some will have the little BB guns where you can shoot down different targets and win prizes, things like that.  Typically some live music, maybe a pumpkin patch, hayrides, fires – bonfires, crafts usually.  Activities like that.

[FINLEY] What sounds like a fun and joyous occasion for many, can raise red flags for someone in the insurance industry.  David has identified a few things to keep in mind.

[BEAR] Some of the risks or potential problems you might encounter: obviously injury, maybe from bounce houses or hayrides or bonfires.  Also food poisoning, you can see that.  Food allergies, that's a big thing.  And then also inappropriate physical or verbal contact with a child is something you would definitely want to watch out for.

[FINLEY] While everyone wants to simply show up and enjoy an event like this, there are important risk management steps that should be taken in order to ensure a fun day isn’t marred with an accident or injury and the resulting claim or claims.

[BEAR] If you have rides at your event just make sure all the rides are operating properly and it's good to have a mechanic on site if you have those types of the rides.  Bounce houses, just keep responsible adults to supervise at all times, making sure there's no holes in the bounce houses, no cuts or anything like that, making sure it's working properly, don't allow food or drink.  Those are ways to prevent on bounce houses and I know it takes away the fun from the kids but another way to prevent injury on bounce houses - just don't allow the kids to do flips and rough play, things like that.  Again, I know it kind of takes the fun out of some of it for the kids but you want to make sure you're keeping them safe.  Hayrides: just making sure that a responsible person provides the tractor and the wagon and the driver services.  You just want to make sure it's someone who is familiar with giving hayrides, try to keep it off the public streets if possible, keep them on private property if you can.  Most likely it’s going to be at night so just make sure you have lights on so there's plenty of visibility and keep adults to supervise riding on the wagon with the children.  When it comes to the bonfires, this is one you're going to want to contact your local fire department for just to make sure that your abiding by all the guidelines and the restrictions.  You definitely want to keep your fire site at least 25 feet away from other structures or vehicles, any type of utility lines, things like that.  But the big one there is just contact your local fire department make sure you're within the guidelines and restrictions of your area.  And food - food was the other one that we talked about.  There's always the opportunity for food poisoning or other food illnesses and ways to prevent that is just make sure you have clean and sanitized food prep areas, keep those clean.  Make sure you're keeping the food at the proper temperatures and keep an area where hands can be washed often or hand sanitizer around.  Also, labeling the food helps with those who deal with food allergies so that way they know what they can and cannot eat.  So those are some basic ways to prevent some injuries.

[FINLEY] Unfortunately, accidents do happen and it’s difficult to prepare for everything.  Sometimes, even when you have taken the necessary precautions accidents can still happen (which is one major reason insurance exists).  Having the right type of insurance protection is critical in making sure any claims will be covered. 

[BEAR] Yeah so the coverages you’ll have on your insurance policy, one is general liability.  That's going to cover a lot of the activities but one thing you want to check and make sure you do have is called special event coverage.  You’ll want to check with your insurance provider to make sure you have that.  That's going to protect some of the activities that you're doing that or a little higher risk that your general liability won't cover.

[FINLEY] If you’ve never attended a fall festival, we encourage you to get out and experience one because they are a great way to spend time with family and friends while enjoying the cooler weather.  Hopefully, with the insight provided by David, any fall festival you attend will be a safe and successful one. 

As we mentioned at the top, fall festivals aren’t the only event churches host in the fall.  Trunk-or-Treating has become a very popular event in its own right.  Here’s David again to tell you more about it.

[BEAR] Yeah so Trunk-or-Treat is a great way to provide a safe way for kids to go collect candy and still participate in the Halloween activities. Again it's just a safe way to do it.  The kids get to go from car to car in a parking lot and collect candy and the cars are usually decorated and everybody's in costumes, so it's a good time.

[FINLEY] While having children trick or treat in a confined area like a parking lot may seem safer, (and by all accounts probably is) there are still some things to be mindful of.

[BEAR] There are definitely some opportunities or some ways that injury or accident could occur.  Accidents in the parking lot when the cars are arriving, maybe there’s a chance for vehicle to vehicle accidents.  Typically they serve food, whether it's grilling hot dogs or whatever, so there's a potential for food poisoning and then they usually have games as well.  So, obviously, when you're goofing around and having fun there's opportunity for injury there as well.

[FINLEY] Fortunately, with the right strategy and practices in place, preparing for and preventing these potential risks shouldn’t be too difficult of a task.

[BEAR] Yes, some ways to prevent accident or injury: when you're thinking about the cars and the vehicles coming in, designate a secure area for vehicles and the public to park, and then also where the Trunk-or-Treat is going to happen.  So, a good idea is: the vehicles are going to be participating in the Trunk-or-Treat, make sure they know a specific time to be there and set up before kids arrive and then also that they cannot tear down and leave until all the kids are gone.  This just helps prevent any pedestrian injury - back into a kid or anything like that.  Another thing to think about is it’s best to only allow pre-packaged treats.  You know those are safe and sanitary so prepackaged treats are the best way to go.  And again, just respect the designated areas where vehicles are parked or where the games are.  This just helps keep everyone safe.

[FINLEY] Much like a Fall Festival, many of the exposures in a Trunk-or-Treat event will be covered by your General Liability policy.  If for any reason you feel like there are other things you have questions about, always reach out to your insurance agent to have those specific questions answered.  It seems like the summer stretches on a little longer every year and the winter comes a little earlier.  Hopefully, whether it’s a fall festival, Trunk-or-Treating, or any other fall themed event, you’ll find yourself enjoying a safe and joyous event in the space between those seasons.  And if you have any questions about your event and what steps you can take to minimize or eliminate potential accidents or injuries, get a hold of us and we’d be happy to help you through the process.  For CLH Insurance, I'm Grant Finley.  Thanks for listening.   

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