#EventPermit: Writing an effective Special Event Policy

#eventpermit, Industry Events

February 04, 2019

During last year’s IFEA Convention, our team learned that one of the greatest challenges facing government Event Offices is operating without an effective Special Event Policy. Community representatives often struggle to find the bandwidth to research and draft a new policy, and their Event Office staff don’t have policy writing experience. With a new year comes the opportunity to tackle this project.

In this article, I’ll provide some suggestions on what to include in your policy.

Do You Need a Policy?
If your community is operating without a Special Event Policy and you’re unsure if you need one, consider the following benefits. A policy can:

  • help you make decisions more consistently and efficiently;
  • provide instruction to staff and other stakeholders on how to do tasks properly and safely;
  • build confidence and reduce bias in decision-making;
  • empower staff to make decisions without prior management approval; and
  • increase the accountability of the local government and its staff.

What Should be Included in a Policy?
Before you begin, check if your organization has guidelines on writing new policies which may include numbering, document structure, and required content. This will set the framework for what you must include in your policy. For example, most policies include a Purpose (why is it needed), Scope (who is impacted), Definitions (terms used in the policy), Responsibilities (who needs to follow and carry-out the policy), Procedures (the dos and don’ts of the policy), Authority (who can approve changes), and Attachments/Appendices (reference materials).

As you start to flush out your procedures, try to ensure the policies reflect the needs and desires of the community. You may want to consider engaging community stakeholders (other departments, Council, local business, and event producers) and refer to other strategic documents such as your Official Community Plan to ensure alignment.

To help you get started, here are some examples of the types of procedures to include in your policy.

Before an Event:

  • Who is required to apply for a permit and when should they apply?
  • Where is the Special Event Permit application form located online?
  • What fees are associated with hosting an event?
  • What is required for an event? For example, events may be required to:
    • secure a location appropriate for the type of event;
    • develop a detailed Site Plan, including accessibility for the differently-abled;
    • develop a waste management plan that includes general waste, recycling and composting receptacles, zero waste initiatives, washroom and sanitary services, and post event clean-up initiatives;
    • develop a traffic management plan that includes parking, vehicle barricades, road and sidewalk closures, police or traffic management services, drone use, signage, and fencing;
    • develop a fire safety and emergency preparedness plan that identifies readiness drills, emergency exits and vehicle access points, first aid services, cooking facilities, hazardous activities (e.g. fireworks), etc.
    • develop a technology plan for events that require wifi and other government managed technology;
    • purchase liability insurance; and
    • apply for additional municipal and inter-agency permits and licences including food & water permits, liquor licences, electrical permits, road closure permits, noise permits, signage permits, and business licences.
  • What is the permit review and approval process? Who reviews the application and how long can it take to issue a permit? Can applicants access the status of their application online and upload additional documents? How long is the permit valid for?
  • Are there best practices you want to communicate to event producers, e.g. how to produce a green event that minimizes the environmental impact? You may choose to include this information in a separate set of guidelines or as an addendum to the policy.

Also consider including specific procedures for the day of the event and post event. For example, what are your tear-down policies? What if there is damage to the site? Do you require each event to complete an event debrief or provide metrics to help your Event Office better support and fund special events?

6 Tips to Writing an Effective Policy

As you draft your policy, remember to:

  1. Keep your policy simple – less is more if you want people to follow your policy.
  2. Reflect your community’s priorities, values and culture in your policy language and procedures.
  3. Ensure your policy is symbiotic with other policies and bylaws.
  4. Make sure your policy is aligned with the mandate and goals of your Special Event Strategy. If you don’t have a strategy, try to ensure your policy aligns with other local and regional strategic objectives, e.g. economic development.
  5. Reach out to your peers in other organizations for their feedback.
  6. Keep your policy up to date!

With an effective special events policy, your Event Office will be better equipped to support your departments’ needs, align your needs with other stakeholders and ultimately provide event producers with a transparent and efficient permitting process.

If your Event Office is working on a new policy and you have questions or tips on what makes an effective Special Event Policy, please share by joining the conversation on Twitter and using the hashtag, #eventpermit.

Download Full Article

Read ie Magazine – Volume 30 issue 7

“As published in the International Festivals & Events Association’s “i.e.: the business of international events” quarterly magazine. The premier association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to: www.ifea.com.”

ie Magazine: Volume 28


#EventPermit: 5 Simple Ways to Measure The Impact of Events

In a previous column (ie: July 2017), I reviewed some of the primary reasons why permitting - specifically event permitting - is important for a community; for example, permitting can reduce liability, improve health & safety, and minimize the impact of events on...

Norwalk, CT approves new special event permit software

September 26, 2019 NORWALK, CT — The city is about to get a new permitting system aimed at making it easier for people to get approvals for events. The Common Council unanimously approved a 12-month agreement worth up to $28,100 with Event Approvals Inc. for "special...

#EventPermit: 6 ways an Event Office can better support events

November 14, 2019 Event Offices are more than just a permit issuing agency. As I’ve discussed in past columns, they play a central role in growing event tourism and building a calendar of events that animate and enrich their community. By providing invaluable tools,...

#EventPermit: Event Tourism, It’s Not Just About Celebrations

Providing oversight for events held on municipal lands to ensure safety and minimize disruption is important, but most local and state/provincial governments have a greater investment in the success of their events. They are leveraging events as another tourism...

Project featured in MISA: Managing Events in the Digital Era

The City of Richmond, BC Canada, is a culturally diverse and geographically unique city and, with a population of more than 200,000 residents, has been experiencing rapid growth and change. Richmond’s recreation and cultural division has grown along with the city, and...