Deep in the Coachella Valley, the City of Indio is a desert community that faces the distinct challenge of managing the risk of extreme heat during the summer months. “When it comes to the summer heat, we have to be very careful,” said City Manager Mark Scott, appointed to service in December 2017.
Indio’s heat illness safety efforts begin with being careful not to position employees in circumstances where their health can be jeopardized simply by working outside. From June through September, staff members begin their workdays in the dark so that they complete any outdoor work as early as possible. When it gets to be the time of season when temperatures reach 115 degrees by noon, outside work is suspended except in cases of emergency.
“The California Joint Powers Insurance Authority provides heat illness prevention training that benefits members like Indio,” said California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) Senior Risk Manager Alex Mellor. “Our resources address hydration and heat stress as they relate to the Cal/OSHA heat illness standard.”
The classroom training teaches members how to identify the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and covers risk factors that can increase the chances of developing heat illness, preventative actions relating to access to shade, hydration, and rest periods, as well as emergency steps and first aid measures.
In addition to entertaining extreme heat, Indio plays host to a variety of annual music festivals, including the Stagecoach Festival and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. “These events bring an influx of visitors to the city,” said Mellor, “which puts a strain on staff and requires a gargantuan effort to maintain service levels.”
Scott, previously city manager for the cities of Beverly Hills, Burbank, Culver City, Fresno, and San Bernardino, among others, welcomes the opportunity to take on these and other matters. “This is my seventh city manager job,” said Scott, who celebrates 40 years of membership in the International City Management Association this year. “The City of Indio is on the radar screen as a good place to live, a good place to raise a family and a good place to do business. We have opportunities that we haven’t had here in many, many years. We’re geared up to do a good job of addressing these opportunities.”
Despite having served in the city management profession for more than four decades, his nascent role in Indio is the first through which Scott has been part of the California JPIA community. Due to several complicated claims, he said, he and Director of Human Resources & Risk Management Terry Deeringer have had the opportunity to work closely with Authority staff. “We’ve been really lucky,” he said. “The analysis they do is extraordinarily helpful. They’ve always approached us from the standpoint of being there to help. “
Also in partnership with the Authority, Indio recently has taken steps to better protect the health and safety of its law enforcement personnel. “When the city’s current Police Chief, Mike Washburn, came on board,” said Mellor, “he instituted a review of the department’s foot and vehicle pursuit policy and practice. The outcome was a more thoughtful and conservative approach to pursuits.”
“It’s in everybody’s self-interest to operate safely,” said Scott. “We want people to go home happily to their families at the end of every workday.”
Thinking ahead to continued risk management efforts, Scott anticipates Indio continuing to benefit from its membership in the Authority. “This JPA is really the premier group, and we’re lucky—as are a lot of cities in California—to be members,” said Scott. “It’s no accident that so many cities have chosen to be members and stay members.”
Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California JPIA is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 100 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive risk management training and loss control services.