Safety is a big topic and covers a lot of different elements. The thought of it is often enough to make even the most experienced meeting planner want to change careers. How does snake charmer sound?
There’s cyber security, crisis communication, public relations scenarios and emergency response planning. It doesn’t help that we’re under constant barrage of scary news on nearly every screen we set eyes upon, usually displaying nothing more than mere seconds of loud noise and scandalous photographs. It’s not enough to get details, but just the right amount of prattle to set our nerves on edge.
There’s good news, however. Our brains don’t really know the difference between a real fear and a fake one, so although we think there’s lots of stuff to worry about, it’s not as bad as the 24-hour news cycle makes it seem. You are far more likely to have someone at your conference suffer a medical issue, such as a cardiac event, or a minor accident, such as a trip and fall, than you are an active shooter. It’s all about preventing or mitigating the most probable concerns.
That means at least one item under the safety umbrella will be a bit easier for you to prepare for: physical safety. A rule of meeting safety is ensuring the space, facility or venue is free from harm and offers components and measures that keep it free from harm.
We, as planners, can prepare for bad things to happen. As a matter of fact, we even have the power to prevent or mitigate some of them. Starting with our site selection, we can begin the process of helping to keep our attendees safer.
Here are a few simple things to do during your next hotel or venue selection.
1) Ask about safety in your RFP
Most venues won’t release their safety or emergency plans for reasons of liability and/or confidentiality—but mentioning your interest in emergency plans, in your RFP, indicates you take safety seriously. Just a few sentences are all it takes, asking how the venue responds to emergencies and how they handle onsite incidents.
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2) Include safety staff at the walk-through
Planners are used to being guided around a property by sales staff, banquet folks and conference service managers. Next time, request that someone from hotel security go along with you for the stroll. It is a great time for the venue to point out emergency exits, fire extinguishers, describe how the hotel meets local and state codes and regulations and even talk about the venue’s emergency action plans.
3) Ask about first responders
As you’re checking out the meeting space and the guest rooms, ask which hospital is the nearest, what police agency has jurisdiction and where the hotel’s access points are for fire trucks, ambulances and other first responders. These are area you want to be free of charter buses, delivery trucks and the like. The time is also ripe to ask about future building and road construction, which could block easy in-and-out access.
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4) Access points and access points
Ask about security cameras and security staffing (how are they identified? Do they go through background checks and training?) and see if lighting is adequate in parking garages, outdoor function space and other places your attendees might visit after nightfall. See what parts of the venue are only accessible with keys and what areas get locked up at night.
Access also includes first responders and other help. They need to have outdoor areas to park vehicles, doors that will open when they pull the handle and as few obstacles as possible to reach the person (or persons) in need.
5) Ask about back of house
Although some venues might not let you have access to view back of house areas, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Make sure they agree to make hallways free of clutter and items that might hinder an emergency exit or provide a hiding place to unauthorized people. If the food service area or kitchens have to meet certain local health codes or regulations, confirm that they do, either by visual inspection or written certification.
Don’t forget to include ADA compliance in your walk thru and confirm the venue is prepared to assist with any attendees that might have special needs during an evacuation.
RELATED STORY: 9 ADA-related questions we must be asking venues
Knowing these tips, you just might organically begin to ask other safety questions to help make sure you’ve chosen a site that’s both safe and secure.