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Plan Ahead for a Safe, Secure Event!
By Link Moser

Haunted Attraction Magazine Editor's Note: The last Saturday of the month, is usually the best attended night of the October season, second only to Halloween night itself. This year October 31st falls on a Saturday, which can mean either large revenues or disaster. Paying extra attention to the security and safety of both your staff and customers will pay off for you on the big day. In this article Link Moser tells us how he is preparing for the big crowds BEFORE they arrive at his event.

Managing any event that is attended by thousands of people at one time, can be a nightmare, unless you plan ahead. Safety and security are of paramount importance for handling the large crowds that will attend your event this year, and a written plan of action for each and every possible contingency will decrease the time it takes to respond to a problem. It is important to be aware of what is going on during the show and to keep an eye on the cash! All public spaces should be well lit to avoid problems, and any potential hazards should be addressed before they become an accident. Plans for bad weather conditions and back-up replacements for all key personnel and equipment will save you valuable time, and having an idea how many people you can handle, before you reach your capacity, are important decisions that should be made before you open your doors to the public. Being caught unprepared can amplify the smallest mishap, into a major problem.

Expect the unexpected and be prepared for it. People do crazy things and as an event owner/operator you need to know before an incident occurs what your reaction to it will be. With the safety of your crew and the security of your patrons in mind, prepare a detailed security plan that outlines your coarse of action for every possible incident. Try to think about everything that could possibly happen and how it should be handled. At our hayride 80% of the staff is spread out, in the woods, in the dark, on a trail that runs as far as a one half mile away from the office and loading areas. If a problem arises on the route, our staff must be highly mobile to defuse the situation. We find it essential to keep vehicles located throughout the premises, so that if an incident does occur we can respond in a matter of seconds.

Since most people pay for admission in cash, it is important to ensure the safety of the money. At least one staff member must be monitoring each cash register at all times. The ticket booth must be in constant communication with other staff and security, and any one register should never have more than $1,000 in it at one time. As the night progresses, remove the larger bills and place them in a secure location to minimize the amount of money at risk.

Regardless of your hours, people seem to show up all at once, and problems can occur as you find yourself overrun by customers. Design your event, parking lot and the surrounding areas so that they can handle a large volume of customers all at once. This alone can go a long way to ensuring that your events runs smoothly and will greatly enhance customer satisfaction as well. Before your event opens, determine the maximum number of people you can handle and make sure you do not exceed that figure. It's great to be busy, but it is better for all concerned to turn people away, rather than to exceed a safe capacity.

The visiting crowd is not the only variable to consider in your written plan. Be prepared for problems that occur with your staff and equipment as well. A hayride places great demand on both staff and equipment. Have a plan in place in the event that a key piece of equipment breaks, or a key person does not show up. A spare generator or compressor, and a few understudies can be a show saver.

Weather, is another variable that needs to be planned for. Be prepared to deal with various conditions such as rain and extreme cold. Rain can wreak havoc on your trail creating mud, ruts and slippery conditions, which can jeopardize the safety of your operation. If you have the room, prepare a backup trail to use as an alternative, if the main route becomes too hazardous.

Thoroughly inspect your tractors and wagons each day before opening to ensure safe and predictable operation. Check the wagons for any sharp edges or splinters, and repair them as necessary. Your hay-wagons are subjected to great stress during the show and overloading must be avoided. Calculate how many people can safely fit on each wagon, and never exceeded that limit. As a safety measure, build each wagon to hold more people than can that fit on it at one time. Maintain your tractors and kept them fueled up. Be prepared to react to mechanical failures during the show as they occur.

Great physical demands are also placed on your staff and precautions need to be taken to ensure their safety. Place first aid kits in visible locations throughout the trail and notify all staff as to their locations. Tractor drivers should pay particular attention to the location of all staff while they are performing around the tractor and wagon to avoid possible injuries.

The use of open fires on your route can be effective, but make sure there is a working fire extinguisher, rated for wood fires, and plenty of water located at each fire site. Never leave fires unattended and make sure that they are completed extinguished when you close for the night.

For the security of your patrons, make sure that all public areas are well lit and free from any obstacles or trip hazards. Since many hayrides take place on a farm, take extra care with any fencing, farming equipment and other inappropriate obstacles by fenced them off, or removing them from the premise. Make sure that the waiting area is safe for people of all ages, remember that children love to explore and climb on or under things.

Making sure your customers and staff are safe and secure is a crucial element in planning your October event, and now is the time to prepare your plan of action. As October approaches, you will find yourself immersed in building scenes and managing the marketing plan, with little time to think about safety and security. Once the plan is written, go over every last detail with your staff so that when a problem arises, everyone is on the same page. A written plan that covers all possible situations will save you valuable time in all circumstances. Making public spaces safe will increase customer satisfaction. Back up systems and an alternate bad weather trail will prevent interruption of the show. The key is to plan ahead, and a written plan it is the best way to ensure that your haunted attraction runs smoothly, safely and successfully.

Link Moser is the co-owner/operator of Windhill Farm Haunted Halloween Hayrides in Loudon, New Hampshire.