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Keep Commencement Safe

Alyssa Keehan, Esq., CPCU, ARM
June 2021
Tips to minimize risk at commencements

Commencement is a highly anticipated event for the campus community. But the occasion can take a negative turn as preoccupied visitors wrestle with traffic and crowds in an unfamiliar setting. Commencement-related claims reported to United Educators (UE) include slips and falls, dehydration, and exhaustion — particularly for elderly visitors and others who need special assistance.

Your colleges or university should remove, minimize, or clearly mark any safety hazards before the event and communicate key safety-related information before and during commencement.

Your institutions also should:

  • Provide maps and instructions. On your website and around campus, post clear maps indicating the event site, restrooms, potential hazards, water fountains, and emergency resources (such as first-aid stations, automated external defibrillators, and security personnel). Consider providing this information in handouts for guests.
  • Reduce travel hazards. When possible, cordon off traffic routes — both motor vehicle and foot — to improve traffic flow and discourage potentially dangerous “shortcuts,” or travel through dark areas or on grassy paths. Ensure that designated walkways aren’t obstructed by tent posts, electrical cords, or other tripping hazards.
  • Make hazards known. Clearly mark any defects, potholes, speed bumps, tire stops, or construction sites. Signs that read “Step Up” or “Step Down” are useful, as are “Wet Floor” signs in case of inclement weather.
  • Provide brightly colored uniforms. Ensure ushers are easy to spot and prepared to help guests who appear to be lost. Train ushers to be sensitive to the needs of visitors with disabilities. Security and emergency medical staff also should wear distinguishing uniforms and insignia.
  • Communicate event logistics. Provide event information early so graduates’ family and friends can plan for their individual needs. Encourage carpooling, suggest they wear proper shoes, and bring portable seats and bottles of water, as permitted. Announce plans for alternative venues or schedules as well as emergency contact information.
  • Accommodate people with disabilities. Describe accommodations available for people with mobility limitations, hearing or vision impairments, and other disabilities. Encourage participants to submit their requests for accommodations early. Be prepared for last-minute needs.
  • Consider child care needs. Provide realistic information to help families decide whether to bring youngsters. List available child care services, the cost for these services, and the deadline for registration.
  • Encourage communication. Use mailings and your institution’s website to provide visitor information. Consider implementing a parents and family page for year-round communication about special events, including frequently asked questions.

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