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Prepare for Emergencies to Minimize Your Risk


Web3A health club’s purpose is to improve its members’ health. Hours are devoted to developing new group exercise routines and client training plans. The time you spend assessing risk and preparing the proper response plans also supports your clients’ health and well-being. Members appreciate a safe, welcoming environment and will recommend your club to their friends.

Effective crisis planning can help you manage risk by preparing ahead, so your staff members are trained to handle any emergency. A simple process includes:

Identify potential concerns such as medical, weather, intruders or missing children. Conduct a physical audit of your facility. Where could people be trapped during an emergency? Where can security measures be reinforced?

Prioritize your concerns. Is there a peak time or area heavily used by children or seniors? Is a manager always on duty who can take charge and provide leadership in an emergency?

Analyze protocols and resources you can implement to prepare your staff. Should you add an automated external defibrillator? Does your staff need training? Is a plan in place to handle abuse or misconduct allegations?

Organize your plans in one document. Use tabs to identify various emergencies and appropriate responses. Make this plan easily accessible in colored binders at key locations, as digital media on computers or via mobile apps.

Discuss this plan with new hires and regularly review it in staff meetings. Practice emergency dry run drills when the facility is closed, or conduct live drills when the facility is open. Remember to alert members in advance.

Involve your local police, fire and EMS. This is an excellent practice that creates a good working relationship, acquaints them with your facility and invites their expert feedback.

In addition, your insurance agent and carrier may have sample plans and resources, as well as risk management services to share in support of your efforts. Good planning can help you respond to potential emergencies, such as:

When someone collapses on the court, trained staff members quickly call 911 and administer the automated external defibrillator. EMS quickly arrives and saves the person’s life.

A child disappears from child care. A text alert is immediately sent to the staff. The child is found hiding in a closet and is returned safely.

Warning shots are fired in the lobby. Staff alerts are sent immediately and everyone is quickly ushered out the proper exits to designated safe areas while police respond and arrest the gunman.

Police officers approach the manager about reports of alleged inappropriate sexual contact by a staff member. The club’s trained general manager cooperates with the police, and communicates appropriately with the media while the incident is fully investigated.

The safety, security and well-being of your club’s members and guests are a priority. Advanced preparation may seem time consuming, but can your club afford not to be prepared? The ramifications can be far more costly: decreased membership growth and retention, negative publicity and, of course, lawsuits that may allege negligence based on your club’s failure to provide the proper level and duty of care for your members and guests. Attorney fees, court costs, staff time for depositions and testimony, and increased insurance costs are expenses often associated with lawsuits.

While catastrophic events can certainly occur without warning, having proper protocols, security and resources in place can save the day, keep your club’s members and guests safe and your organization running smoothly.

*This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.


Brian Rawlings spent 10 years developing and overseeing programs in the fitness industry before joining The Cincinnati Insurance Company in 2005. He now applies his fitness expertise as program manager for the Fitness & Recreation and Medical Facilities programs at The Cincinnati Insurance Company. He can be reached at brian_rawlings@cinfin.com.

Emily Harbourne

Emily Harbourne is the assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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