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Risk Management

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Updated in 2018, the risk management guide outlines important considerations that should be part of any outfitter or manager's understanding of risk management.  Note: when selecting this document, it will download into your download folder and should be retrieved from there.

The information given in this program is general and should not be construed as legal advice.  Laws and the application or interpretation of laws vary from state to state, court to court, judge to judge and situation to situation.  This program alerts you to considerations and concerns as you develop your own risk management plan.  It informs you of options that may be available to your business. There is no substitute for competent legal advice as you establish and implement your own risk management plan. Consult with counsel in your state familiar with the laws and the industry.  The information in this program also should not be construed as “industry standards” or “best practices” as every organization, person, activity, locale and situation may be different, requiring different standards and practices.

April 13, 2017Safety Talk Outline for Multi-day River Trips - Member Only

Safety talk and orientation for whitewater rafting, day trips, provided by OARS.  Any safety talk and orieintation is not designed to be all inclusive of the risk and issues.  You must adapt this or any other outline to your resource, experience, services or risks.

March 30, 2017Accessibility Guidebook for Outfitters Operating on Public Lands - Member Only

The purpose of this guidebook is to provide support for outfitters/guides authorized, under a special-use permit from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, to provide recreation opportunities on public lands. By working together, the agency and the outfitter/guide can ensure equal opportunity for all people, including people with disabilities. This can be accomplished while ensuring the participant's safety and preserving the recreation experience provided by the outfitter/guide.  Outfitters/guides operating under special-use authorization from USDA Forest Service are required to comply with both the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). The ADA applies because the outfitters/guides operate as “public accommodation,” that is they are open to the public. Section 504 applies because outfitters/guides operate under special-use permits authorized by a Federal agency—the USDA Forest Service. Implementation guidelines for Section 504, which apply to recreation special-use permit holders, are located in USDA 7 CFR 15b. By signing the special-use authorization, the outfitter/guide agrees to abide by these and all other laws, regulations, and policies of the Federal Government.

January 09, 2017Anti-Harassment Policy and Reporting and Sample Form - Member Only

This document is a sample sexual harassment policy and reporting form.  This form can be used as part of an office or company policy manual.  Appropriate legal counsel recommending when handling sexual harassment complaints.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances or visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser. This definition also includes inappropriate conduct by clients or other members of the public as well as co-workers.

December 01, 2016Developing an Incident Response Plan - Member Only

Developing an Incident Response Plan presented at the 2016 America Outdoors Association conference in Daytona Beach. Tracey Knutson outlines for you the steps and details of developing an Incident Response Plan for your operation.

August 09, 2016Emergency Response Plan Template - Member Only

Adapted from the WVPRO Emegency Reponse Plan, this template can be used by America Outdoors Association members as a guide for creating their own emergency reponse plan.  It is not meant to be a complete or customized plan but a starting point for creation of a plan that is appropriate for your location and business.

April 12, 2016America Outdoors Amicus Brief Opposing Application of Maritime Law to Rafting - Member Only

This amicus brief was submitted in 2008 by AOA after a Circuit Court ruled that maritme law applied to whitewater rafting.  The West Virginia Supreme Court eventually overturned the ruling of the Circuit Court.

February 16, 2016 Background check certification - Member Only

Form to be provided to the employee to authorize background check.

February 05, 2016NPS Acknowledgement of Risk Form 2015 Grand Teton - Member Only

Approved acknowledgement of risk form for Grand Teton National Park 2015

January 15, 201610th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling Upholding Waiver in Colorado - Member Only

The use and legitimacy of liability waivers in Colorado was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in a January 2016 ruling.

July 20, 2015Risk Management Resources for Outfitters - Member Only

Various risk management resources 2015

August 27, 2014Letter on NPS Insurance Requirements - Member Only

High limits insurance requirements threaten outfitters profitability in National Parks.

April 06, 2014Liability in Paddlesports Rentals - Member Only

Renting recreation equipment is a common practice in the United States that drives a recognizable portion  of the multi-million dollar recreation industry, and, in particular, the paddle sports industry. Rental is often a more practical alternative to owning and maintaining recreational toys (rafts, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards or SUPs). However, recreational equipment rental comes with several inherent legal risks. Read this brief prepared by Tracey Knutson to learn more.

February 18, 2014 On-Water Paddling Standards - Member Only

A team of experts assembled with U.S. Coast Guard  (USCG) grant funding seeks national content validation of HUMAN  (manually propelled) boat operation standards/rubrics that will be freely available to the boating public. This is your  opportunity to impact the development of free recreational paddling and rowing (canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboards,  etc.) standards/rubrics that can be voluntarily used by educators when developing boating courses

December 11, 2013Incident Response - Member Only

Tracey Knutson's presentation at the AOA conference, December 2013.

November 06, 2013Save 5% to 10% on Liability Insurance Premiums with Your AOA Membership - Member Only

You can save 5% to 10% on your liability insurance with AOA membership.  Several insurers give underwriting credits on liability insurance premiums for AOA membership.  The amount of the credit for membership varies but ranges from 5% to 10%.  You may also earn additional credits with some insurers by attending AOA’s Risk Management seminars. 

August 06, 2013Insurers letter on NPS Insurance Requirements - Member Only

Insurers letter on NPS Insurance Requirements to Senators Udall and Bennett.


May 01, 2012Essential Risk Management Practices for Your Recreation Business - Member Only


In this DVD, "Essential Risk Management Practices for Your Recreation or Adventure Travel Business," renowned recreation and adventure sport defense attorney Tracey Knutson walks you through essential composnents of critical risk strategies for outfitters, and adventure travel businesses. The 2 hour Training DVD features five distinct segments for training guides, reservationists, owners, and other staff.

Contact America Outdoors Association to purchase yours, 800-524-4814.

Special thanks to Tracey Knutson and Marni Walsh for the extra effort in putting this great training DVD together.

The preseason price for AOA members is $99. You will not be disappointed - the risk management programming was the one of the highest rated programs at our 2010 event. The content is based on Tracey's direct experience defending a number of cases in our industry in addition to her research on these issues.

The DVD menu has the following segments:

  • Post Incident Response
  • Safety Talks and Orientation
  • Minors
  • Employment Issues
  • Marketing/Representations
  • A PDF summarizing the content
  • And lots of action footage to keep your staff's attention!


February 02, 2012NOLS Van Training Protocols 2012 - Member Only

Van driver training protocols from National Outdoor Leadership School.

December 28, 2011AOA Whitepaper on NPS Liability Insurance Limits - Member Only

America Outdoors Association's Whitepaper on NPS Liability Insurance Limits

December 22, 2011Critical Incident Response - Member Only

Critical Incident Response and Crisis Communications, presented by Tracey Knutson with Skip King, Wednesday December 7, 2011 at the America Outdoors Association Marketing and Management Conference in Reno, NV.

December 07, 2011Critical Incident Response - Member Only

Critical Incident Response Critical Incident Response and Crisis Communications, presented by Tracey Knutson with Skip King, Wednesday December 7, 2011 at the America Outdoors Association Marketing and Management Conference in Reno, NV.

July 18, 2011Creating a Crisis Management Plan - Member Only

Guide to Setting Up An Emergency Action Plan by Christopher Yvars, The Rietz Law Firm Includes Sample: Crisis Contact Form, External Notification Form, Corporate Contacts, Media Release, Incident Report Forms, Witness Statement Form, Safety and Risk Management Resources

June 27, 2011When a CDL is Required - Member Only

Summary of Regulations for Commercial Driver's Licenses from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Excerpts 2010)

December 30, 2009Marjorie Segale Insurance Reference Handout - Member Only

Reference Section of Marjorie Segale's handout that accompanied the "Common Gaps in Insurance Coverage" session at Confluence 2009 in Reno.

August 07, 2009Recent Tax Court Case on Passive Activity of LLC or LLP Owner - Member Only

Two recent cases, one from the U.S. Tax Court and the other from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, have ruled favorably to taxpayers that owners of limited liability companies are not subject to the same restrictions as owners of limited partnership interests in applying the passive activity federal tax rules.

August 03, 2009Important State Liability Statutes and Rulings (July 2009) - Member Only

The information provided on this page is a compilation of state liability statutes and rulings from various public web sites.

April 21, 2009 Montana Recreation Liability Statute - Member Only

Montana House Bill No. 150 introduced by D. Brown. An act creating the Montana Recreation Responsibility Act.

September 26, 2008 Congress Passes the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 - Member Only

On Sept. 17, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 by a voice vote, following the Senate's passage of the bill last week. As written, the purpose of the Act is to "restore the intent and protections" of the ADA, essentially by overturning certain decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that currently limit thedefinition of disability.

April 25, 2008 Certification Form - Member Only

Form to be provided to the credit certification company for background and credit checks.

April 25, 2008 Background Check Disclosure Authorization Form - Member Only

Background check disclosure authorization form to be provided to employee.

April 17, 2008 Canadian Custodial Management Directive - Member Only

SCOPE This directive applies to all Custodial Groups in Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada PURPOSE To ensure a professional standard of care for every Custodial Group that visits Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada.

April 17, 2008 Custodial Permit Application - Member Only

Permit Application for Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada This Application includes a Members List and Emergency Contact & Equipment List. All documents must be submitted completely four (4) weeks prior to the requested departure date.

March 13, 2008 Emergency Action Plan - Member Only

Emergency Action Plan by Sun Country Tours in Oregon.

March 13, 2008 Witness Statement - Member Only

Template for taking statements from incident witnesses.

March 13, 2008 Safety and Risk Management Resources - Member Only

Safety and Risk Management Resources

March 13, 2008 Incident Report Form - A - Member Only

Incident Report Form Sample

March 13, 2008Template for Press Release - Member Only

Generic Model for a Press Release when there is a fatality. Adjust as Necessary

March 13, 2008 Incident Report Form -B - Member Only

Additional Sample of an Incident Report.

March 13, 2008 External Notification Form - Member Only

Contact list for all response agencies.

March 13, 2008 Crisis Contact Form with ICS - Member Only

Master copy of a Crisis Contacts

March 13, 2008Press Release Template for Injury - Member Only

Model Press Release for Incident with Injury.

January 14, 2008 Risk Management Manual - Member Only

America Outdoors' Risk Management Manual, containing over 200 pages of information.

August 07, 2007 Injuries Associated With Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking - Member Only

This article reviews the demographics of such injuries and the types of injuries commonly encountered. Injuries Associated With Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking David C. Fiore, MD, From the University of Nevada School of Medicine, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Reno, NV

February 22, 2007 Reasons to Warn of the Effects of Cold Water Immersion - Member Only
June 08, 2005Tennessee Exculpatory Agreement Upheld - Member Only

In this action for personal injuries allegedly due to defendant’s negligence, the Trial Court granted defendant summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiffs had executed a Waiver and Release of Liability which was required by defendant prior to plaintiffs’ participation in white water rafting. Plaintiffs have appealed, insisting the Release is void as against the public policy of this State.

June 01, 2005 Risk Management Planning Workbook - Member Only

Prepared by Ian Wade, Director Adventure Safety International this book is a guideline to risk management self assessment

June 01, 2003 Interpreting the ADA for Outdoor Programs - Member Only

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has inspired hope and freedom, as well as anxiety and confusion. For outdoor programs the ADA is good news because it lays out clear guidelines. In this article we are going to look at the growing opportunity to involve people with disabilities, specific responsibilities and practical steps outdoor program providers can follow to ensure their programs remain both safe and equitable.

December 01, 2002 Emergency Action Planning - Member Only

Risk management has a proactive component that seeks to reduce the chance of an accident taking place. However, recognizing that despite everyone’s best efforts problems may still occur, risk management also focuses on minimizing the consequences of an accident for the affected organization. This article discusses only the latter aspect and how an Emergency Action Plan can ensure the most appropriate response is made following and accident.

April 01, 2002 Organizational Checklist for Managing Emergencies - Member Only

Organizational checklist for managing emergencies with flow chart for key roles.

December 06, 2001 Post Critical Incident Response - Member Only

Post Critical Incident Response presented at the America Outdoors Conference December 6th, 2001 by Dennis Kerrigan, Wilderness EMT-Paramedic, Senior Faculty Wilderness Medical Associates

December 01, 2000 Liability In Rental Operations - Member Only

Prepared for America Outdoors by Charles Van Gorder. Operators involved in rental or livery operations face a variety of liability issues.

December 01, 2000 The Basics of A Drug-Free Workplace - Member Only

The Basics of a Drug-free Workplace presented by Charles J. Mataya at the America Outdoors conference. In establishing a drug abuse program for its employees, an employer is normally seeking answers to two questions. First, how can it identify those persons in its work force who are abusing drugs. Second, what can it do with those employees identified as having a drug problem. Drug screening is becoming the tool of choice in attempting to identify the drug abusing employee.

Montana Statute Legalizing Waivers - Member Only

This bill authorizes the use of waivers for liability releases in the state of Montana.


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AOA Conference Dec 4 - 7 Daytona Beach, FL

AOA is the national association of outfitters and guides and their suppliers. Check out our list of members.

Become an America Outdoors Member

Trip Date: September 17 - 21, 2018
Moab, UT

Join us for the 2018 George Wendt Memorial Raft Trip. Call AOA office to register. Click below to view the flyer.


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Save Money on Exclusive Benefits

  • Free Business Kit with membership
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  • 5% to 15% savings on liability insurance
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Legislation & Regulation

Legislation & Regulation:

  • Minimum Wage for Federal Permits
  • Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act reauthorization
  • Expansion of Overtime
  • Latest on Paddlesports Skill Standards
  • Log-in to Outfitter Member Resources for Complete Access to Need-to-Know Documents

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Risk Management

Risk Management:

  • Save 5% to 15% on Liability Insurance
  • White Paper:  Liability in Paddlesports Rental
  • Essential Risk Management Practices DVD
  • Brief on Use of Background Checks

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