Fear. I live with it almost daily. Truth be told, I have a bit of an anxiety problem, and paying attention to current events doesn’t help. I can imagine the worst-case scenario in any given situation, which can suck the enjoyment right out of an experience.
One thing that does calm my nerves is always having a plan of action. I keep water and blankets in my vehicle, and I always know where the exits and fire extinguishers are inside a building. I own dozens of flashlights. In 2011, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention ran a Web campaign with instructions on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, it was partly in jest. But the premise was strong. After all, if you’re ready for zombies, you are ready for anything. And I am ready for zombies.
Today’s meeting professionals need not worry about the walking dead, but there’s no time like the present to implement your own plan of action for emergency situations. You’ve made sure that Suzie won’t be getting any shellfish and Bob can’t have gluten, but what about that hurricane headed toward the hotel, the smoke coming from the electrical outlets or the guest who collapses after a team-building exercise? We simply cannot be laissez-faire about any phase in planning for the well-being of our guests.
There has been a surge in recent years in the number of articles and blogs focusing on event safety. Many give excellent tips on preparedness. All suggest having a checklist. Unfortunately, reading a blog and having a checklist are no longer sufficient. It’s time to be proactive. According to Jim Digby, founder of the Event Safety Alliance (EAS), “It’s not the plan that will save lives … it’s the act of planning.” You should be so familiar with your safety protocols that they are automatic. Once the zombies are at the door it’s too late to go looking for granddad’s shotgun.
There are procedures that you should implement immediately. Create a crisis-management plan, and practice it with your staff. A well-trained staff can make the difference in avoiding tragic consequences.
Determine if you’ll need a private security team. If there will be more than 1,000 attendees, you need one. Still, security teams are just a small part of overall safety, which can include metal detectors at entrances, crowd control and more, but not all events need every measure.
Consider the type of event you’re holding and the venue. What kind of crowd is expected? Will there be any high-profile guests who expect a private guard? Don’t be scammed by someone claiming, falsely, to provide security. Get a referral for a reputable company and verify its licensing.
How to be proactive
- Familiarize yourself with hotel security. Do so even if you’re using a private team. Most hoteliers realize the importance of an excellent security team. They should be your first point of contact in preparing your plan. Make this part of your site selection criteria.
- Communication is essential. Your staff and team must know who to report to and when. Make sure one staff member has a list of all the guests. Have a rallying point in case of an evacuation. Use two-way radios or cellphones to keep in touch. Don’t be shy or embarrassed about having a practice run with your staff.
- Brief your attendees. Make sure they know where all the exits, fire extinguishers and defibrillators are located. Include emergency information with your program materials. Let attendees know how their actions can impact their own safety, give them point of contact information and the rally point location.
- Have mass text capability for all staff and attendees. Use social media and event registration platforms.
- Become certified in crowd management and CPR.
- Vet your suppliers. Are your lighting people complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards? Has the stage crew been properly trained, licensed and insured?
It can be scary knowing that lives are in your hands, that people will look to you during a crisis, but it need not be overwhelming. Need more help? Download the Event Safety Guide ($49.95) for tips on being a proactively safe guest.
What’s your experience been? Please share your security tips, good stories and bad, in the space below.