It is inevitable. Events will not always go according to plan and various catastrophes will emerge. As an event planner, it is paramount and your duty to be prepared for such emergency situations. Although there’s no way to predict when one of these situations will strike next, we can certainly mitigate the risks that may occur when they do—be it from a natural disaster or man-made. These are the factors that every event planner should consider when assessing the potential dangers of an event and when creating a safety strategy.
Assessing Potential Risks
Some venues are wiser choices than others. Is your venue choice a place that is used to accommodating events such as the one you’re planning? Perhaps it’s a more unusual choice that calls for a number of precautions to be implemented before it’s a viable, safe option. Below are a number of considerations to help you make that determination:
Space limitations: Is there a possibility of overcrowding at this event? Will the number of attendees fluctuate on any given day (such as a 3-day music festival) or will there be a finite number of tickets sold? Will people be seated or will they circulate? Will there be alcohol served? Will attendees rush the stage or become disruptive? Determining the flow of the crowd throughout each day of your event is vital to ensuring its safety.
Accessibility Issues: Is the venue user-friendly for people with disabilities and mobility issues? Are there sufficient emergency exits for the number of people attending? Will there be any parking issues upon the conclusion of your event and, if so, how could they be managed? In an emergency, will the elevators (if any on-site) stop working? Is there an alternate route in case of emergency for the more vulnerable people in the crowd?
Safety Concerns: Take a thorough tour of your venue to assess whether there are any exposed wires or equipment that would lead to tripping and potential injury to both your team and event attendees. Could special effects or equipment brought in by entertainers be a fire hazard? Be aware not only of what you are adding to your event, but what is being brought in by the people whose services you have contracted.
Weather-Related Issues: Are there any potential problems that might be caused due to the weather? For example, do slip-and-fall hazards exist or will high winds affect temporary structures or light rigging? Is your event on the coast and it happens to be hurricane season? Is heat exhaustion a possibility?
Surrounding Area: Will there be a large sporting event or other high profile, high capacity events scheduled during the same time as yours? This could impact accessibility for your attendees. Also, you may want to consider the proximity of the local hospital or the authorities in case they should be required. Depending on the type of event, it may offer peace of mind.
Create An Emergency Response Plan
Having a framework which you can follow allows for a smoother evacuation in a crisis when stress levels are elevated. To create your plan, take the information from your venue assessment and break it down even further, considering each potentiality that arose under every section.
Once you’ve done that, determine the protocols you will put in place for each possible scenario. For example, what will be the evacuation plan in the event of a fire? It isn’t enough to say that you will evacuate everyone; you must write down the procedures that will take place from the time the fire is discovered to the safe evacuation of all attendees. Whether it is a bottleneck situation upon exiting the parking lot to venue structural damage caused by winds to an overt attack by an individual, develop a multi-point plan for each item.
Execute The Emergency Response Plan
While it’s great to have the evacuation plan, it isn’t enough. Confusion and panic will set in once a crisis hits. It is critical to the success of your plan for you to know if it will actually work in practical terms.
Often there are warning signs, such as in the case of impending weather-related issues, to alert you to the fact that it is time to implement that plan rather than waiting until the crisis occurs. Since the goal is to get everyone to safety as quickly and calmly as possible, make use of any forewarning available to you. That could be anything from monitoring local public service announcements to using technology to assist you in risk prevention.As the event planner your duty of care doesn’t stop with the attendees for the event you organize; it extends to your team, the vendors you bring on-site and any volunteers you will be using as well. Click To Tweet
Starting with your team, go through the emergency response plan so everyone knows what the other’s role is in case of emergency. Once disaster hits, people will be looking to you to lead them. Delegate responsibilities for certain situations to specific people because you can’t be everywhere at once. Do several dry runs of your plan in the weeks and days leading up to the event. This may seem like an overreaction to some, but will offer a greater peace of mind for everyone involved in the end.
Ensure all vendors, on-site contractors, and volunteers get a copy of your written plan so they know exactly what will happen in the case of an emergency. Not only do they know what to expect, but they may also prove helpful during a crisis.
Depending on the size and type of your event, it may be pertinent to contact local authorities to get their input on your emergency response plan. Even if you feel you’ve considered all possibilities to the extent of your ability as a planner, it is a good practice for certain events to let authorities know in advance that a large capacity event will be taking place. This becomes especially important in certain cases like a music festival or politically divisive event.
Indeed, we’ve seen many catastrophes hit all kinds of events across the globe in recent years. Thus, it is important to know that each event will require a different plan. Be honest about the risks associated with the event. While we’re powerless when it comes to foreseeing the actions of others, with a bit of preparedness and vigilance we greatly increase the likelihood of a safe and successful event.