The event dates are set, the venue has been selected, and the contracts are in place. Let the planning process begin! As an event organizer, you have an enormous amount of logistics to coordinate and massage into place as the event rapidly approaches. Everything from the event schedule, to registration, speakers and sponsors, food and beverage, you are responsible for it all! The list goes on and on as you work to strategically organize each category down to the finest details.
Now, Enter Today’s Reality
Each day we turn on the news and we see new realities unfolding around the world. Severe weather, increased levels of social injustice, and newfound forms of radical terrorism. It can be tremendously intimidating to formulate a comprehensive plan that prepares your team for the extreme or unknown. Understanding that no two events or venues are ever the same, you wonder how you will develop a plan that will ensure the safety of all event attendees? You begin considering:
- Evacuation plans
- Forms of communication during a crisis
- Alternative meeting locations
- How will participants respond when faced with an unfamiliar situation?
- What role your team will play as the series of events unfold?
- Communication rooms
- Lockdown procedures
- Response time from the local support services
Suddenly you begin to wonder how this became the world we live in and how you can make plans to keep your guests safe?
Consider the Scenarios
As is true for all events, a great place to start developing an emergency response plan is to ponder the most likely scenarios that could occur with your event. As meeting organizers, we have always chosen our meeting venue based on rates, dates and space. The scope now must include other possibilities as well.
Severe Weather and Natural Disasters
Changing weather patterns and extreme storms are now making travel more difficult and must be taken into consideration. Spend time thinking about the geographical area and what are the current issues and weather patterns for that area. Consider whether the event is being held during tornado or hurricane season and natural occurrences which may occur in the destination city, such as earthquakes, as well.
Whenever a large group is gathered together, the risk of a human-created threat is greater. Know if there are racial or religious tensions in the community. Has there been a recent event that has the community on edge? Are there issues within your group that may increase the likelihood of your event being a target?
Consider possibilities such as drought, water restrictions and even wildfires which may impact the event. Don’t forget to think about human resources and the likelihood of strikes or work stoppage.
The answers to these questions will help you devise a plan that prepares your event for the things that are most likely to occur, rather than focusing on the exceedingly rare incident. When building your plan, it is important to always hedge your bets on the things that have the greatest potential to occur.
Make a Plan
Because this is a relatively new area of focus for the events industry, it is important to not feel overwhelmed about incorporating this unfamiliar component into your event plans. You might find it helpful to think of your emergency response plan as a protective layer of insurance. You wouldn’t put your car on the road without car insurance, so it is equally critical that you take a proactive approach and proceed into an event with all the safety insurance you can assemble.
If you are feeling anxiety about the level of responsibility that this can create for you as an event organizer or host, you might find solace in some of the tools and resources that are now available to guide you through the world of emergency planning. To assist with your emergency preparations, MeetGreen has created an Emergency Response Template that will help direct event producers in the necessary steps to developing their own Emergency Response Plan.
While reading the MeetGreen Emergency Response Plan Template, you will notice a simplified approach to putting an effective emergency plan in place. This tool is designed to act as a framework in which you can build upon and customize plans based on the nature and location of the event you are responsible for managing.
Start at the Beginning
The first area of focus is centered around the pre-planning protocol. In this section, you will be asked to identify your emergency response team members that will assist you with communication and implementation of the emergency response plan. The template then concentrates on the essential protocol needed to conduct a site inspection. It is during this time that you will identify critical areas and emergency tools such as fire alarms, extinguishers, and AED’s that will be vital in the event of emergency. Two sections of the template also identify the importance of preparing your legal contracts to address safety of attendees, as well as gathering participant information during the registration process.
During the Event
The final sections cover emergency procedures and discuss possible scenarios that could occur so you can begin to customize your plan based on the most likely situations. You will also develop forms that will be crucial to effective communication should you find yourself managing a real live emergency.
In Case of Emergency, Know You Are Prepared
As I write this article, I am reminded that the world around us is changing all the time and that the most important keys to emergency planning are to think ahead and stay calm as much as possible. It is fair to say there will never be a perfect plan that covers all aspects of the unthinkable, but if you have a framework from which you can build upon, you are much more likely to influence a positive outcome for so many people.
Through proactive planning and a heightened awareness of your surroundings, you will begin to feel an increased level of confidence heading into your events. As event organizers, it is always the hope that the storm will not arrive and everything will run smoothly. Should the unexpected happen and you need to spring into action, just remember to remain calm, and know you are prepared.