July is also National Picnic Month! Whether or not you have ever heard of National picnic month, chances are many in your area will be taking advantage of this slower time of year by hosting or attending a barbeque or outdoor gathering.
Not All Fun And Games - Be A Good Host And Prepare For A Safe Gathering
However, if you are inviting guests to a picnic or outdoor event, whether it’s in your backyard, a park, or along the waterfront, be aware as the host you may be responsible for your guest's safety and security. As lawyers serving southwest Florida for over 30 years, we have seen even the most unlikely events occur that can bring preventable injuries to what should be a fun event.
Below are a few potentially dangerous aspects of hosting a picnic that event planners should be aware of:
Alcohol - Have A Plan
If alcohol is to be available, be sure a designated driver has been chosen, whether it’s for automobiles or for boats, people may drink more than they intend to at hot outdoor events and that can lead to disaster at your picnic. Always have a designated driver available and encourage your guests to drink in moderation to avoid problems. Alcohol can lead to everything from a drunk driving accident, to pedestrians being hurt, to fights between guests.
Lightning - Get In Doors
While our afternoon thunderstorms can bring relief from the hot Florida summer, lightning is a real danger in our area. While your chance of getting struck is unlikely, be aware that Florida is the lightning capital of the US, and more people are struck by lightning in Florida than in any other state. Since 2006, 418 people have been killed by lightning, and 70% of them were hit in the months of June, July, and August. If you are having a picnic or other outdoor activity and hear thunder, it’s time to move your guests indoors. According to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), a lightning bolt can strike as far as 25 miles from its source, so if you can hear thunder, you and your guests may be in the range of a lightning strike. Failing to keep your guests safe from lightning could fall under premises liability law. We recommend having an alternative location to move your gathering to should a storm occur.
Swimming Pools - Designate A Lifeguard
Swimming pools are one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors in Florida’s hot summers. However, if you have invited guests over for your picnic and there is a swimming pool available, you will need to be aware you are responsible for your guest's safety. Swimming pools are fun, but can also be very dangerous, especially if all the adults at a gathering are distracted and the kids are playing unobserved. A lot of the danger however can be avoided if the host of the gathering designates a lifeguard to keep an eye on the guest near the pool. In 2019 alone, 388 people drown in Florida, a sobering statistic. Keep your guests from running as a wet pool deck made of hard concrete is also potential for a serious accident for your guests.
One of Florida’s biggest attractions is our access to the waterfront, whether it’s along the Gulf of Mexico or in our many rivers and lakes, getting out onto the water is a great way to have a picnic. For those fortunate enough to own a watercraft, taking a trip to meet up with other boaters on the many small islands to have a picnic on is a popular summer activity. It can also be dangerous if precautions are not kept. Just as with automobiles if alcohol is available a designated driver should be chosen. Alcohol is a leading cause of serious boating accidents and it certainly does not make swimming in natural waterways with shifting currents any safer. Always come equipped with enough life jackets on board, and be sure whoever is driving the boat has experience being on the water before inviting guests.
While impossible to predict, anytime you have invited guests to an event be aware of the possibility of a serious medical emergency. Everything from a dangerous food allergy, to choking, to older guests having a heart attack could and does happen, even at picnics. We recommend that the hosts stay sober and be sure to have cell phones handy in case they need to call 911.
While generally not the first thing that comes to mind when planning a picnic, if your event will take place in a public park or if there is alcohol involved security is a consideration. A lively picnic with music and guests can attract unwanted attention in a public location, and in larger events where alcohol is served scuffles between guests is also a possibility. In either case, keeping cell phones handy to call authorities is advised.
Whether you are hosting friends and family at a summer picnic this July, or going to an event we wish you a safe and fun summer.
However if the worst should occur and you or someone you know has been harmed at a poorly planned event, call our law firm for a free attorney consultation.