Things happen. Despite planners’ best-laid plans, an event can be hit by a hurricane or tornado. Terrorism is not outside the realm of possibility and, God forbid, an attendee could become ill or even die. You have to be ready. With that in mind, Plan Your Meetings asked experienced planners how they prepare for worst-case scenarios. Here are their top 13 suggestions.
1) Create a binder (paper and/or digital) that contains emergency guidelines and checklists for situations you might encounter. Share it with people who will act as your backup on-site. Make sure your team has a “safe word” with which to alert security about a potentially violent person or sensitive situation.
2) As you contract with vendors, transportation providers and venues, collect proof of insurance (if available) and emergency contact information to keep in your binder alongside any existing emergency plans and procedures they have.
3) Talk with the company or client’s HR department to identify the corporate after-hours emergency contact person. You’ll need this in your binder if an attendee becomes medically fragile and their emergency contact person is unreachable.
4) Meet with the company or client’s executive team to chart a crisis communication plan for internal and external messages that might need to be conveyed to attendees, attendees’ families and/or the media. Keep that in the binder along with any standard operating procedures and guidelines they already have and the numbers of key people who need to review or approve any communications.
5) Work with the client or company’s legal or procurement team to secure any insurance policies you need to protect your group from liability. Keep proof of insurance, instructions and contact numbers in your binder. Share your insurance information with any venues/vendors that require it.
6) Distribute a “know-before-you-go” sheet to all attendees that includes common-sense cautions about the meeting locale as well as basic emergency contact info and instructions.
7) Know what you’ll do if something happens and your on-site backup gets sick or injured.
On registration forms
8) Ask each traveler for an emergency contact name and number, and if they have any medical conditions you should know about. Include that information in the binder.
9) Ask attendees about food allergies/restrictions. Share that information with every chef and banquet captain. Determine a strategy for each meal function on how the banquet staff will get special meals to attendees. Make sure directions for each meal are properly communicated to both attendees and banquet staff.
At site inspections
10) Note where hospitals and urgent-care facilities are located. Place directions and phone numbers in the event binder along with instructions on how to handle attendees who get sick, but do not have a life-threatening emergency.
11) Be mindful of physical limitations/disabilities any attendee might have. If you see anything that might affect their mobility, comfort or access, let your venue contact know so it can be addressed. Look out for potential hazards like stairs and slick surfaces. If you can’t do a site inspection, arrive a day early to do due diligence.
At the event
12) Make sure attendees, vendors, transportation providers and venues know who your event’s emergency contact person is, what constitutes an emergency and what they should do if one arises.
13) Make sure you have a first-aid kit, with prepackaged aspirin, bandages, alcohol wipes, cough lozenges and other supplies you can bring to the event. You don’t want to administer medicine yourself (that creates a liability), but make the kit available to attendees should they need to treat themselves for minor complaints.
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