Practice Specialty Parade Safety Article

 From the ASSE Council on Practices and Standards Public Sector Practice Specialty newsletter: providing you the following article. For more information and permission to reprint the article please go to the website, 2009.


 By Greg Langan, CSP, ARM-P, CPCU 


In many communities in recent years, the Fourth of July parade has grown in size and popularity. This mid-summer parade is one of the biggest events that many towns hold.


On the day of the parade, with very little room left empty, the streets are lined with people two or three deep along the parade route. The faces of the children lining the streets are filled with delightful anticipation of the sights, sounds and treats to come. Some of the little ones are so excited about getting candy that they dash out from the spectator lines into the street as the floats pass.


At the same time, parade participants, standing on the floats and ready to hand out candy, rely on the float to continue its slow movement. Any sudden stopping or maneuvering could cause these float-riders to lose their balance.


A recipe for disaster? Small children, moving vehicles and unsecured float riders. Throw in an equestrian unit or imbibing spectators and the potential for an accident escalates.


The summer parade has a twin in many communities—the Christmas parade. The winter holiday parade has all of the safety hazards of the summer parade and then some. Each parade tends to offer its own special set of hazards in addition to the many that all parade events share.


This article features work completed in Plano, TX, but it can be modified to fit parades, large or small, in cities and towns of any size. The basics are given in the Parade Safety Manual. More towns and cities have parades during the summer than at any other time of the year. Hopefully, you can use this article to ensure safe and enjoyable parades from now on.


Hazards on Parade

The city recognized the need for improving the safety of its winter holiday parade and rewrote its Parade Safety Manual. The systematic process for developing the Parade Safety Manual identified eight major areas for review:


  1. 1.     Parade theme and entries.
  2. 2.     Parade speed and separation of parade entries.
  3. 3.     Parade float size and construction.
  4. 4.     Role and conduct of persons engaged in the parade.
  5. 5.     Equestrian and livestock entries.
  6. 6.     Role of parade marshals in controlling spectators.
  7. 7.     Parade route and street barricades.


The process of developing the Parade Safety Manual included identifying the hazards that are present in parades and developing controls for those hazards. Many of the controls included in the Parade Safety Manual are presented.


Parade Theme & Entries

  • Only one motor vehicle per entry is permitted except car and motorcycle clubs, which may have up to four motor vehicles per entry. Marching groups are limited to 50 participants. Equestrian entries are limited to 12 horses per entry.
  • Livestock, reptiles, wild and domestic animals will not be in the parade without specific written approval by the parade committee.
  • No discharging of firearms or simulated type of noise or fireworks is allowed.
  • Any entry that produces loud and startling noises, which could cause an equestrian entry to panic, is not permitted. Vehicles that backfire, either intentionally or otherwise, are not permitted.
  • All amplification systems must be noted on the application and approved by the parade committee.


Parade Speed & Separation Between Entries

  • §  This is an “all forward motion” parade. Performing groups should choreograph routines to maintain forward motion at the parade pace. No slow cadences allowed.
  • §  A distance of two on-road white “skip-lines” must be maintained between parade entries.
  • §  All entries must complete the parade route.
  • §  There will be no stopping along the parade route for any reason. Parade marshals (or other parade staff members) have the authority to request that a parade entry speed up or slow down to manage the gap between parade entrants.


Parade Floats

  • §  The maximum size of a parade float is 14 ft wide, 40 ft long and 12 ft tall.
    It should be noted that normal traffic regulations govern the movement of the parade float to the parade starting site. Those regulations restrict vehicles in normal traffic to 8 1/2 feet in width.

    Traffic lights and signs overhang the route; care should be taken not to exceed height limit. The maximum width on the parade route includes foldout decks and/or outriggers.
  • §  Minimum ground clearance is 10 in. Floats with “skirts”: loose fabric that touches the ground is prohibited because it may catch and tear, potentially causing the parade progress to stop while the float crew works on the torn fabric.
  • §  The speed of motorized vehicles is limited to 10 mph on the parade route.
  • §  Before constructing floats, trailers must be inspected for mechanical fitness such as tongue, bed, tires and cleanliness of wheels. Vehicle cooling systems, steering, brakes and tires must be in good mechanical condition and properly serviced prior to the parade.
  • §  Floats must be chained to the towing vehicle in addition to the hitch.
  • §  Driver must have two means of escape.
  • §  Driver vision to the front, sides (180º field of view) must be unimpeded. In special cases, with the approval of the parade committee, if the driver has a limited field of view, walkers must be stationed just off the front corner of each side of the vehicle and must be in constant radio contact with the driver.
  • §  Float seating must be securely attached to the float bed. It is recommended that those riding the floats be seated at all times, secured by seatbelts or an appropriate body support.
  • §  Standing on floats or in moving vehicles is not permitted unless safety harnesses are used. Those standing, in addition to being secured by a safety harness, must have at least one hand on a handhold or barrier for support in the event of sudden stops or starts. Handholds and barriers must be a minimum of 36 in above the float deck and capable of withstanding a 200 lb-force applied from any direction.
  • §  Decorative material includes drapes, curtains, drops, hangings, wall coverings, exterior finish, paper, fabric and all other decorative material that would tend to increase the fire and panic hazard.
  • §  Decorative materials, including drapes, curtains, drops, exterior finish or paper materials must be non-combustible or inherently flame-retardant. If these materials are combustible, they must be “treated” flame-retardant by a state fire marshal “licensed applicator.”
  • §  Decorative material and the parade structure must be kept clear of the exhaust system of a motorized parade float. Do not let hanging material come in contact with hot exhaust pipes.
  • §  Open-flame devices are prohibited on parade floats. The use of fuel-fired torches, candles or similar devices that can ignite the parade float are prohibited. Fireworks are not permitted.
  • §  If the float has electrical lights, they cannot be in contact with any combustible materials or flame-retardant materials.
  • §  Motorized parade floats and towing apparatus will be provided with a minimum 2-A, 10-B:C-rated portable fire extinguisher that is readily accessible to the operator.
  • §  All floats using power or generators must use an isolating transformer or ground fault interruption device.
  • §  Do not overload temporary electrical wiring. Secure electrical wiring properly and do not let wiring drag on the ground or contact tires or the vehicle’s drive train.
  • §  Inspect all electrical appliances before energizing the parade float.
  • §  If the float requires a portable generator, it cannot be located on the float. It can be located on the front of the towing truck.
  • §  Do not allow the heated exhaust from the generator to come in contact with combustible materials.
  • §  Since there is no stopping on the parade route, the generator’s fuel tank must be of sufficient size to power the generator for the duration of the parade. No refueling of the generator is permitted on the parade route. Fuel tanks should be topped off just prior to the parade. Containers of fuel, other than fuel tanks that are an integral part of the equipment, must not be carried on any parade entry.


Role & Conduct of Persons in the Parade

  • §  No persons will be permitted on floats that are not noted on the entry form.
  • §  Parade participants may not throw any item or items from their unit, float or auto. Costumed out-walkers may hand things to the audience at the curb, but they should not encourage the audience to leave the curb or to move into the street.
  • §  Parade participants may not jump onto or off of any float or moving vehicle and may not interfere with any other unit in the parade.
  • §  A minimum of two participants (designated as safety monitors), other than the driver, is required for each float. These two safety monitors may not ride on the float; they must walk alongside the float on either side of it. Each safety monitor will receive a fluorescent safety vest for visibility along the parade route. Safety monitors may not hand out candy or giveaway items on the parade route.
  • §  Children on floats must be supervised by an adult. No children under the age of 5 are permitted on any float.
  • §  A maximum of 12 walkers may accompany any float.
  • §  Participants are required to refrain from using cell phones and/or camcorders at all times while on the line of march.
  • §  Drivers of any and all vehicles in the parade must have a valid driver’s license and be at least 18 years of age.
  • §  Drivers of float vehicles are required to operate their vehicles in the center of street on the parade route. Operators are restricted from weaving or swerving towards the crowd.
  • §  Alcoholic beverages are forbidden on any float, in any vehicle or on the person of any participant.
  • §  All motor vehicle operators will be screened for blood alcohol levels immediately prior to the start of the parade.
  • §  Parade participants on bicycles, unicycles, skateboards, in-line skates or other wheeled equipment are restricted from weaving or swerving towards the crowd to avoid losing control, swerving into the crowd and injuring spectators.
  • §  Hold a safety meeting with the float staff early. Be prepared, identify the hazards and plan your strategy should an unexpected event occur. Identify the location of the fire extinguisher and how to shut off the generator and other electrical equipment. Identify a method to alert the driver to stop the parade float.


Equestrian & Livestock Entries

  • §  Livestock, reptiles and wild and domestic animals will not be in the parade without specific written approval by the parade committee.
  • §  Stallions are not permitted in equestrian entries.
  • §  No horseback riders under the age of 12 will be permitted.
  • §  All animals must be under control at all times. All parade animals will exhibit proper disposition and control in a parade environment without assistance.
  • §  All equestrian and livestock entries will have two safety monitors, one walking on each side of the entry. Their role, in part, will be to ensure that spectators do not approach the equestrian entry during the parade route.
  • §  Animals riding on floats must be tethered to the float.
  • §  All light and heavy horse hitches will have an assistant in the front seat of the wagon. Any hitches in excess of two horses will have at least one additional assistant on the ground.
  • §  All riders on or in horse-drawn wagons or floats must have appropriate seatbelts, body supports or other body restraints.
  • §  Equestrian and livestock entrants must provide their own waste removal squad to monitor and remove animal waste along the parade route and in staging and disbanding areas.


Parade Marshals

  • All parade marshals will be required to undergo a criminal record background check.
  • Parade marshals are charged with the responsibility to maintain the speed and spacing of units as they proceed up the march line.
  • Parade marshals are responsible for ensuring that parade viewers are safely behind the curb and that the spectators are having a good time.
  • Parade marshals will be responsible to summon medical assistance in the event that one of the spectators becomes ill or injured. They act as witnesses in case of injuries or accidents.
  • Parade marshals who are placed in intersections will be responsible, in the case of an injury or accident, to separate crowds and to clear the intersections for responding emergency vehicles.  


Parade Route & Street Barricades

  • §  Spectators are not allowed in the parade zone, the street surface between the curbs along the parade route. Parade marshals and other parade staff are authorized to keep spectators out of the parade zone.
  • §  Spectators are not permitted to place chairs or coolers in the parade zone; spectators are not permitted to stand in the parade zone. However, spectators are permitted to sit on the curb with their feet close to the curb.
  • §  At the direction of the police department, movable barricades may be placed at intersecting streets to restrict vehicular traffic from crossing the parade route. The police department will determine when the barricades will be placed prior to the start of the parade.
  • §  In areas where participant crowds are likely to be large, plastic yellow tape may be stretched between uprights as a barrier to define the parade zone.


Additions to the Parade Safety Manual

The parade committee asked that insurance requirements for parade entries and a hold-harmless agreement be included in the manual.


In addition, the Parade Committee requested several other provisions to be included (i.e., restrictions on vulgar displays, political issues).  

  • All entries must be acceptable to the parade committee. No obscene, vulgar, violent displays, conduct or words are allowed. Entries depicting violence, drugs, illegal activities or otherwise deemed inappropriate will not be allowed in the lineup.
  • No political entries will be accepted. Units displaying political advertising will be removed from the Parade. Currently serving elected officials may be invited to ride in the parade with signs identifying their current status. They may not campaign for reelection, nor may they display any electioneering materials in the parade.



Working with the City of Plano, we strive to ensure that their holiday parades are fun-filled and injury-free. The work that has been done to create the manual for Plano needs the parade committee’s diligence to enforce and execute. The city safety group intends to work alongside the parade committee to help ensure that this year’s parades will be another success for the City of Plano.


Greg Langan had served as ASSE Assistant Administrator of the Public Sector Practice Specialty.



This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.