Helicopter Easter Egg Drops: Eggstravaganza or an Eggstrava-Risk?

It’s hard to beat the “wow factor” of a helicopter Easter egg drop. The excitement builds as the whirring blades are first heard off in the distance. Then the helicopter appears and drops its colorful cargo full of goodies. Children, dressed in their Easter best, laugh and run. Parents follow, snapping photos.

It’s no surprise that flying a helicopter over several hundred children and their parents is thrilling. But you might be surprised to learn that it’s risky, too. So risky in fact, that most property and liability insurance carriers—including Brotherhood Mutual—don’t offer coverage for this type of activity. A crash could result in extensive property damage and hurt a lot of people.

Insurance considerations

Most likely, your ministry does not own the helicopter. You may assume that the owner has proper insurance, but it may not protect your ministry against a lawsuit. Here’s what you need to know about insurance coverage for this type of activity:

  • Direct or indirect losses are excluded from coverage. The helicopter doesn’t need to crash to cause an injury or property damage. Wind caused by a helicopter operating close to the ground can create flying debris that can injure a person or cause property damage. Brotherhood Mutual (as well as many insurance providers) does not offer coverage for damages caused by the helicopter’s presence. However, your ministry’s insurance policy likely offers coverage prior to the helicopter’s appearance and following its departure. Be sure to speak to your agent about how your ministry is and isn’t protected.
  • The helicopter’s insurance may not extend to your ministry. The helicopter owner/company will likely provide liability insurance for its pilot and its actions, but the coverage likely would not extend to protect your ministry for its liability. You could be sued for failing to select a qualified company or helicopter owner, or directing the pilot to fly in unsafe conditions.  Also, your ministry could be held liable for failure to exercise proper crowd control. Consider requesting a certificate of insurance which shows the coverage obtained by the owner/company. Ask the company if your ministry can be named as an additional insured on the its policy, as this may provide your ministry with additional protection. 
  • Using non-owned property creates additional issues. If you are renting off-property space (like a park or sports field), the owner of the property most likely will require you to provide 1) indemnity, and 2) additional insured status, on a policy that covers this exposure. As noted above, most insurance companies may be reluctant to offer any coverage for activities involving helicopters or aircraft generally.

 

Other Considerations: Eight Areas of Concern

Your board of directors and leadership have considered the property and liability risk vs. insurance options and decided to move forward with its plans for a helicopter egg drop. So, now it’s time to plan for the safest event possible. Have you addressed these eight areas of concern?

  1. Waiver form for attendees. Do you have a plan for how you’ll distribute and obtain signed waiver forms? Brotherhood Mutual has developed an Activity Participation Agreement to help get you started.
  2. Crowd control. Have you formulated plans to corral parents and children in an area far from the helicopter and drop site? Your local police may be able to offer tips on effective barriers.
  3. Limiting number of participants. Whether your event is exclusive to your ministry or open to the public, do you have a method of counting or controlling the number of participants necessary to provide a safe event? 
  4. Age-appropriate zones. Can you group children by age? What about children with limited mobility?
  5. Communicating event rules. How will you communicate event rules? Excited children and eager parents may not fully pay attention to verbally communicated rules. Consider that helicopter and crowd noise will certainly be a factor. Think about including written instructions at the point of sign up, distributing a flyer prior to the event, and posting signs at entrance points. For larger events, rent a public address system with enough speakers to cover your area.
  6. Trash cleanup. Can you provide plenty of trash bins and organize a cleanup crew prior to the event? If you are using non-owned property for the event, the ministry is generally responsible for cleanup. The site’s owners could impose hefty fines if the property is left in disarray. 
  7. A plan for lost children and first aid. Do you have a well-publicized area for a parent to collect a lost child? Are the volunteers in this area screened, trained, and properly equipped to supervise a lost child or provide basic first aid? Have you discussed how you will match a child to its rightful guardian?
  8. An alternate date. Is your event held rain or shine? Has your pilot communicated the maximum wind velocity that allows for safe flight? Include in your event communications the conditions under which your event would be canceled.

 

A final note: Be sure to include your insurance agent and a locally licensed attorney in your plans. He or she can offer other suggestions that are specific to your event's location and details.