Thursday, August 2, 2018

At What Cost? The Price of Safety

Yesterday [July 31] I attended the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense: The Cost of Resilience: Impact of Large Scale Biological Events on Business, Finance and the Economy. Former Representative Jim Greenwood facilitated this meeting with the panel’s co-chair, former Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Panel members included Former Senator Joe Lieberman, Former Governor Tom Ridge, and Former Homeland Security Advisor Ken Wainstein. Testimony to the panel included Congressional Representatives; representatives from the pharmaceutical industry; FedEx; ExxonMobil; World Bank; and Dr. Lou Marcianci, Director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, from the University of Southern Mississippi.

It was truly an interesting day. In their discussions, the various presenters offered comments ranging from the need for federal oversight, financial support, integration of the public private partnerships in various areas and at various levels of the government involving biodefense, and more tactical discussions including the best way to remove a drone from a mass gathering. You are probably asking how this affects us as members of the International Institute of Race Medicine (IIRM).

Each of our events coordinates and communicates with law enforcement and emergency services. We participate in the development of the Incident Action Plan (IAP) and we develop our own Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for severe weather, road closures, and a sentinel event. Most of this is behind the scenes; runners and spectators are not aware of all the planning and work that must occur to make our events safe. That safety, however, is costing more and more. Major events spend millions in law enforcement and emergency services. Before 911, local law enforcement supported the Marine Corps Marathon with a big smile and the promise of a shirt. In 2017, we were required to add blocking vehicles in several locations on our course.

For those of us who answer to boards, sponsors, governments, etc., what is the financial tipping point for us? Is there a registration fee ceiling that our participants will not exceed? As the number of events grow but registration numbers remain flat or decrease, how do we keep our events safe, exciting, and memorable for our participants and spectators without breaking the bank? I always comment that no one focuses on medical at our events except us, and I still agree with that statement. The expectation is we are trained, ready, and prepared to handle what comes our way. Runners do not plan to visit aid stations, enter emergency rooms or stay overnight at a hospital (or worse, not come home). As we continue to develop more robust safety plans and add specialty law enforcement and emergency services, how do we educate our customers? How do we mitigate risk? And how to we afford to stay in business?