Professional event planners would agree that many of their colleagues in the industry could significantly improve their disaster and emergency plans. Effective preparedness and planning often start with identifying the threats and preparing for worst-case scenarios.
While organizations can’t prepare for everything, experts say they can try to prepare for what could happen and use those plans as a model for how to respond to other crises. Most importantly, those plans should be designed with flexibility and continuously tested and improved. Robert Grossman of Focus Creative Group, a communications consulting and development company, came up with a list of precautions to take for every event. This checklist applies to disaster preparedness, overall event safety, and risk mitigation:
Make signage clear to all attendees. Digital signage may save you money and you will be able to have the appropriate images ready to go if there is an emergency. Make sure your staff has radios and consider separate channels for security and emergency medical services.
Prepare for the Worst
Create an emergency preparedness plan with a contingency checklist for your site visits and planning process. Have AEDs (automated external defibrillators) or know where they are and how to get one from the venue. Consider having a few staff members trained in using them. Identify staff members who are trained in first aid and CPR. Consider hiring a company that provides emergency medical services.
Check the Plans
Always check venue exit plans usually located around the venue and in your hotel rooms. Know where all the fire exit doors are and confirm they are open, unlocked and clear of obstruction. For double doors, check both.
Instruct your attendees to check the safety procedures that you have provided them or are posted for all to see. It is too late when a crisis strikes. Most people will exit from the door they enter from. During your opening announcements, consider having a slide of a meeting-room exit plan.
Prepare for Fires
Know where fire extinguishers and fire pull alarms are. Check to see if the fire extinguishers are charged. Make sure all decor items, linens and draping are fire-proof or have retardant. If you are renting the materials, make sure their certificates are current.
Clear the Way
Check aisles for obstructions such as cables, signs and computer bags. Make sure all wires are tapped down securely on the stage and floors, especially if cables need to cross a doorway. Check all flooring for pits and fissures that can catch a high heel. Make sure the stage has no gaps and that stairs are securely attached to the stage, and mark the stairs with a bright tape on the edges. Also, mark the stairs’ location on the stage with tape so someone exiting off the stage can find the stairs easily.
Make it Safe
If any of the guests are celebrities or dignitaries, coordinate with the local police agency. Have a plan and training for event personnel to look for suspicious packages and note to whom they should report them.
Light it Up
Think about lighting especially for outdoor events after dark. Look for obvious and not so obvious issues, such as badly lit paths to bathrooms, etc. Most venues have emergency lighting, but you might want to have flashlights on hand.
Self-evacuation usually does not work. Assign team members or hired staff to direct the attendees into predefined gathering areas. Check with the venue or the fire marshal where these gathering areas should be. You may want to prepare written instructions telling your attendees where to go if a disaster occurs. Write these up and give it to your announcer or VOG so the audience can be instructed where to go and remain calm. (VOG, is an acronym for “voice of God,” and is used by event professionals in referring to an unseen event announcer.)
“Successful events don’t happen by accident.” – Tweet This Quote Success is a result of effective planning and execution. Of course, luck has its place—but you have to make your luck possible through thorough preparedness. If you plan ahead and the unthinkable still happens, it becomes far more manageable.
Your FREE ebook awaits! Take your event planning skills to the next level with a FREE digital copy of the Amazon bestseller: “GOING LIVE: Insider Secrets To Corporate Event Production”.