Article by: Evan Gabel, Esquire
Nearly every municipality has some type of special event throughout the year on property owned by the municipality – whether that event is a fundraiser, arts and crafts show, fair, parade, or fireworks show. While these events are often great ways for the community to come together and to show visitors positive aspects of the municipality, it is important that the municipal body be prepared for the types of issues that these special events can present.
Emergency Service & Traffic Control
One of the most important items that a municipality must consider when an organizer proposes an event in the municipality is coordination with emergency service providers. Often, the event will close municipal streets or utilize municipal property to house the festivities. Because of this, it is important that the organizer of any event meet with emergency personnel and formulate a plan as to how an emergency at the event will be handled, and ensure that should there be an emergency elsewhere in the municipality, emergency responders have an alternate route available to avoid crowds and closed streets, and efficiently respond to the emergency. These plans and proof of such meeting should be provided to the municipality in advance of the event being held.
If traffic control is necessary, and the municipality does not have enough special fire police, the municipality, not the event organizer, must request additional special fire police from surrounding municipalities. If no special fire police are available to provide traffic control for an event, a municipality may authorize the event organizer to provide traffic control, but this must be done explicitly and in writing.
Alcohol at Events
A municipality also needs to deal with the issue of alcohol at events held on municipal property well in advance of the actual event. Although the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) regulates the sale and consumption of alcohol in Pennsylvania, a municipality may enact a blanket prohibition of the sale, consumption, service, and distribution of alcohol on its property during an event. Another option is for the municipality to prohibit alcohol at a special event unless the organizer has obtained the proper licensure, usually a special occasion permit or temporary extension of premises permit, from the PLCB.
Most importantly, a municipality must ensure that the event is properly insured and ensure that the event organizer executes a Release and Indemnification Agreement. While each event will be different, at a minimum, the event owner/organizers should carry $1,000,000.00 in commercial general liability insurance to cover any accidents or injuries that may occur during the event. The municipality should be named as an additional insured, and copies of the certificates of insurance should be provided to the municipality prior to the event for review. Although there will be insurance in the case of any incidents, it is also imperative that the event and it’s organizers release the municipality from any and all liability and indemnify the municipality, meaning the event and it’s organizers agree to defend and pay for all costs of defense of any suit that arises out of or is related to the event.
These three items represent major considerations that municipalities must examine when an event planner or organizer requests use of property owned or under the control of a municipality. Planning for these types of events requires careful attention from the municipality to ensure it does not take on any additional liability and the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens is preserved. The attorneys of CGA Law Firm are experienced at assisting municipalities with these issues. Should you have any questions regarding special event permits and planning, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the CGA Municipal Group.
Evan Gabel is an associate at CGA Law Firm and a member of the firm’s municipal practice group. Evan provides legal services to individuals and businesses in the areas of business and corporate law, labor and employment law and municipal law.