Disaster…..Are You Ready??
The goal of every event planner is to run a flawless event for their clients. While planners are busy looking five steps ahead and planning for any hiccup that may cause disruption to an event, are we truly prepared to handle emergency situations? Zika Virus, terrorism, food poisoning, water bans, or a natural disaster can turn any event into a disaster for the client and attendees.
While planners can’t prepare for everything, having a risk assessment and emergency plan in place allows you and your team to be better equipped to handle event emergencies should they occur.
Knowing where to start can be daunting and each emergency plan should have specific details that relate to a specific emergency situation. To start the process here are a few key factors to include when preparing a risk assessment and emergency plan.
Venue: Ask the venue for their emergency protocol plan. While they may not be able to share the entire document with you, ask them for a safety synopsis outlining the important information you should know if an emergency occurs.
Onsite Contact List: Have a list of all onsite staff. Include cell phone numbers, email and emergency contact information and designate a phone tree that is activated in case of emergency. Encourage onsite staff to upload cell phones numbers in their contact list prior to arriving at the event. These steps can streamline communication in an emergency situation.
Offsite Contact: Designate a point of contact at the home office to act as a liaison in case of an emergency. This person should be aware of the emergency protocols and have a copy of the onsite contact list. This point of contact can disseminate information regarding attendees and staff attending the event.
Emergency Meeting Spot: Work with the venue security team to designate both an indoor and outdoor relocation area and identify which areas will be used for which kind of emergency. This should be communicated to both staff and attendees.
Staff Communication: If staff has access to radios, designate specific channels for emergency use only. Develop a code word for staff to use in case of emergency and designate a key contact person for all emergencies. If radios are not available and staff have access to cell phones text the emergency code to activate the emergency protocol.
Medical Emergencies: Know where the nearest hospitals are located. Name, address, phone, and distance from venue should be included in attendee materials. Provide a map or directions if possible. Find out who handles all medical emergencies within the venue and if they have paramedics on staff or use 911 for medical emergencies. Ask for standard response times.
Local CVB / City Offices: Prior to your event contact the city CVB or government office and inquire about city functions occurring during your dates that might impact your event (i.e. presidential visit, city wide convention, marathon, etc).
The resources below can provide valuable information to assist with putting a risk assessment and emergency plan together:
- Convention Visitor Bureaus
- Local Office of Emergency Preparedness
- City Services (fire, police, etc.)
- Fema Special Events Planning Guide
- Travel Health Info (cdc.gov/travel)
- US Department of State Travel Warnings
- Emergency Preparedness Planning For Meetings & Events
An emergency plan should have steps in place to handle weather events, terrorism, illness, power outages, missing attendees, etc. Keeping attendees aware of emergency protocols onsite is important. Make announcements as part of housekeeping notes during opening session. If using a conference app include an emergency protocol section and push live notifications in an emergency situation.
Handling an event emergency requires forethought, awareness, and team work. Being prepared can limit damages and speed recovery time, contribute to the event’s success and won’t leave you in the dark!