The typical responsibilities that the Department of Risk Management/ Environmental Health and Safety covers tends to concern preliminary planning and risk assessment of events and construction on campus as well as handling the university’s insurance policies. However, the department recently played an unusually large hand in making UWG’s newest tradition, the homecoming bonfire and pep rally, a huge success.
The homecoming bonfire, which occurred on Sept. 22 in Love Valley, presented many risks that threatened the university’s premises as well as its reputation. These risks included the potential damage that a fire could cause to the surface it sat upon, the necessity to prevent a potential collapse of wooden palettes, the need to be easily accessible to both attendees and forklift and the need to contain left over debris such as wood and nails.
In order to address the risks associated with the fire and prevent them RM/EHS stepped in and committed to not only assessing the risks but also to conduct and organize the event themselves. This process began, like most projects, with field surveys and paperwork.
“The first thing we do is determine the risk posture,” said Matt Jordan, director of Risk Management. “For events we use an event review form, for projects and enterprises we use a four page risk assessment guide and for construction we use a pre-construction checklist, so we use these tools which are mostly forms.”
In order to determine the risk posture the department began searching for the ideal space to host the event by using a drone to take aerial pictures of potential locations. The criteria needed for the space to be deemed safe required the placement of the fire to be far away from any buildings or trees to prevent a spread and that a 50-foot safety area be located around the flames. Upon further investigation it was decided that the safest place for the fire would be in the bottom right corner of Love Valley between the Campus Center and the white gazebo.
Next, they began to design steel containers to hold large quantities of wooden pallets that could be elevated or insulated to prevent damage to the ground. They did so by making multiple models of the containers out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands. Once they decided on a functional design RM/EHS purchased two large steel basins from SLM Recycling for $2700.
“Because of the high cost of the basins the model was very important,” said Jordan. “Risk Management designed the basins and we engaged the services of SLM.”
Once the time for the bonfire had arrived it was clear that the hard work and intense attention to details were major factors in the event’s success. Hundreds of UWG students and alumni came out to enjoy the fun-filled event and gather on the campus they all know and love.
“I can’t brag on Risk Management enough,” said Dr. Xavier Whitaker, Dean of students and original proposer of the bonfire. “From the beginning they have embraced it with their department and by setting guidelines and giving support and order to make sure that it is not only safe but we can celebrate with hundreds of people without putting anybody at risk. That was very essential.”
After months of planning and preparation the inaugural homecoming bonfire and pep rally was attended by an estimated 1,500 UWG students, alumni and staff according to Chris Geiger, Director of the Center for Student Involvement. These numbers are only expected to grow as the tradition truly takes hold with campus and the surrounding community.