What to Know About Insuring Fairs, Festivals and Other Special Events

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The world of fairs and festivals has evolved well beyond the pie judging, chili cook-off, apple bobbing days of the traditional county fair. Today, there’s an event for nearly every hobby, interest or culture imaginable.

For 65 years, underwriters at K&K Insurance have been in the business of insuring crowds.

Stephanie Waldron, senior vice president of events and attractions division, and Warren Mead, senior underwriter, both of K&K Insurance, offer a few insights into the world of insuring fairs, festivals and other special events. Here’s what they had to say.

Read It!

It is most important for agents to advise insureds about their contractual obligations. But to understand any contract, an insured and their agent should read it first. “This sounds elementary but it happens a lot,” said Mead.

“Certificates of insurance tie right into contractual language when it comes to product and service providers being used by the event,” he said. “Make sure you read the contract before you sign it.”

Certificates of Insurance

Once contracts have been reviewed with the insured, the next step is to make sure that the contractor is providing the appropriate insurance and additional insured status to the event, Mead said.

“This is another really critical area and a key element where an agent or broker could step in,” he said. “Talk to the insured to make sure the insured has a protocol in place to get properly executed certificates in place, with adequate limits, good companies. Make sure the coverage dates are correct and that the additional insured status is correct. This is absolutely critical for the festival.”

It’s their first line of defense if an incident occurs related to that product or service provider, Mead said.

Changing Exposures and Red Flags

Whether it is a county fair, music festival or standalone event, there’s always something new and different coming along from an activity standpoint. Twenty years ago the new fad for attractions and activities involved bungie jumping. Today, ziplining — tomorrow, who knows?

Sporting events that involve mud runs, color runs, beer runs, zombie runs or other extreme running events have become the “red flags” in sports-related event underwriting, Waldron said.

Other events that might spark an underwriting “red flag” are political protest events, she said. However, some political events not classified as protests fit well into a new K&K program.

In January, K&K launched a program designed for political campaigns and events that provides coverage for campaign offices, political conventions, inaugurations, campaign rallies, speeches, fund-raising activities, debates and other campaign-related appearances. Coverage is available for all levels of political campaigns including national, regional and local races. National Casualty Insurance Co. is the carrier for that program.

Security protocols at events have become another changing exposure in today’s climate.

“It’s manageable; it’s a known entity, as opposed to terrorism-related situations,” Mead said. “But it’s become a much bigger part of our underwriting process.”

Unique Coverages

Transmissible pathogens coverage is one that might be important to some fairs but not others, Waldron said.

“This coverage might be relevant for events, for example, where e-coli could be contracted because of animal contact at a fair,” she said.

Drones are another emerging area that present risk. “We underwrite that exposure and we sometimes have the ability to offer some coverage but we are finding that many events are starting to restrict drones completely when they understand

“When they¬†gather, what they are watching, how active they are when they are watching. … Those are some of the things that help us decide how we underwrite and how much we charge for coverage.’¬†the danger they could cause at the event,” she said.

Volunteer accident coverage is another important added coverage for most events, Mead said.

“That’s probably the most frequently purchased optional coverage for an event because a large majority of fairs and festivals use volunteer staffing. There are very few employees typically,” he said.

Volunteer accident coverage is a no-fault coverage as long as the person was injured while on duty as a volunteer at the event.

Other additional coverages options could include: liquor liability; fireworks liability; contingent ride coverage for carnivals; and sexual abuse coverage for events where there might be a childcare service.

Market Conditions

Mead said the market for fairs, events and other festivals mirrors the rest of the property/casualty industry. Rates are competitive and coverage is available. But there are a few steady players that have always been in this class.

“There’s maybe three carriers all the time in this class of business that have been there for years,” he said. “Then there are what I would call … tier two carriers, those companies that jump in the market when it’s hot, then all of a sudden they are gone.”

Both Mead and Waldron advise agents and brokers to seek out a specialist when writing this class. “Most of the time agents and brokers do not write a lot of this kind of business,” Waldron said.

Fairs, festivals and events are concentrated exposures that require unique thought processes and different approaches when it comes to underwriting, she said.

“We insure crowds,” she said. “That’s what we do. When they gather, what they are watching, how active they are when they are watching. … Those are some of the things that help us decide how we underwrite and how much we charge for coverage.”


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