Ask an Expert on Risk Management

Risk Management

The expert advice to answer your most pressing questions. This month, Jason zeck, chief risk and compliance officer at UCLA, shares advice on risk management. 

What are the biggest challenges regarding risk management at a campus recreation facility? 

JZ: We all know that campus recreation facilities across the country are busy. At UCLA, our facilities are no exception. UCLA Recreation manages 16 distinct recreation and athletic facilities. Our facilities serve students, the larger campus community and the public in a variety of different manners.

The dynamic use of our facilities, combined with the wide audience that we serve, is perhaps the biggest risk management challenge we experience. This environment presents challenges such as keeping up with what is going on in a facility, knowing who is in the facility, providing staff that is trained to support the diverse offerings within a facility and being prepared to respond when an incident occurs.

How do you overcome those challenges? 

JZ: The University of California promotes and supports an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach.  In short, we work together to strategically identify and manage risk within a comfortable level. In practice we say that everyone is a risk manager. Although I hold the title of chief risk officer, it isn’t realistic or feasible to think I, or any one person, can independently manage risk in all of our facilities and programs. Rather, I rely on our employees to bring forward risk management concerns and we work together through the issues.

What are some high-risk areas that may fly under the radar? 

JZ: For those campus recreation facilities that host summer youth programs as part of the recreation experience, a lot of planning and coordination takes place to ensure the safety of the children participating in the programs. In these programs, children are supervised by staff members at all times and policies and procedures are in place.

Another high-risk area is people. The people who manage our facilities and our programs absolutely can be our greatest asset, however, they can also be our greatest liability. Spending time to do your best to hire the right person on the front-end is far more valuable and productive then spending time on the back-end trying to figure out how to deal with a problem employee. Due diligence in hiring is critical, including a thorough review of the individual’s  application, at least one interview, reference checks, criminal history background check, verification of certifications and proper orientation and training.

Can you share an experience that taught you an important lesson around risk management?

JZ: Over the past couple of years we have had three individuals go into cardiac arrest within our facilities. I witnessed two of the incidents firsthand. Watching our staff perform CPR and utilize our AEDs most certainly struck a chord with me. Watching our staff in action reinforced the importance of AEDs within recreation facilities, the importance of staff to be trained in first aid and CPR, and the importance of communication when dealing with a critical incident such as a medical emergency. Literally, our staff’s preparedness has been a life saver.

Rachel is the Editor-in-Chief of Peake Media. She can be reached at

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