Post written by: Diane Winters | Underwriter, Agribusiness
Entrepreneurial farmers across the country have discovered that seasonal events — particularly Halloween — can be opportunities to earn significant extra income. Corn mazes, hayrides, bonfires, pumpkin patches, produce markets and haunted houses and barns mark the season. This profit center even has a name: agritainment.
However, because it’s relatively new, the agritainment experience is often lacking adequate police and fire participation and protection. Because accidents happen, these missing components are critical to ensure a safe visitor experience, and must be addressed before you put out welcome signs.
For example, in 2002, a fire that started in a parking area at a farm in Pennsylvania destroyed more than 30 vehicles. The apparent cause was a hot exhaust pipe that came in contact with dry husks in the cornfield being used for parking.
Here are some sensible risk-avoidance steps you can take to make your event fun — and safe — for all.
- Plan your event in conjunction with local safety forces. Does your volunteer fire department know where your farm is located, and precisely where your event will be held? Do you know where the nearest water source is located? Alert your fire department about your plans and ask the chief to go on a walkthrough with you so there will no surprises for you or them. In the Pennsylvania incident, a fire chief would have been able to warn against the parking arrangement that caused the disaster. Also, contact local law enforcement ahead of the event to inform them of your hours of operation and expected number of visitors. Among other things, they can help them determine if traffic control services should be provided.
- Make sure your people know how to respond to emergencies. Because your events are held sporadically, it’s unlikely that your employees will have much experience maintaining a safe environment. Hold a training session before your event opens and make sure everyone knows where fire extinguishers, defibrillators and other safety equipment are kept (and that the equipment is nearby). Find out if any employees have first aid training in case emergencies arise, and make sure everyone understands how to move crowds out of harm’s way. Everyone should know how and when to contact safety forces. It’s incumbent on you to alert those living nearby if traffic might be disruptive or noise levels will be higher than usual.
- Adhere to sensible rules. Post signs, such as “No Smoking,” in conspicuous places, especially when conditions are dry. Other examples include “No Running” or “Do Not Leave the Corn Maze Through Non-Exits.” You should also review the rules with your employees before starting each activity.
A safe and successful agritainment event takes planning and the cooperation of safety forces. Keeping the authorities involved will help enhance the reputation of your event and avoid costly mistakes.