Keeping your event attendees safe is a big responsibility, and planners should always be thinking ahead about their role in maintaining a safe environment for their guests. Many catastrophes can either be prevented or fixed by implementing a few simple procedures. No one expects an event planner to substitute the role of police or firefighters, but when a problem does arise the expectation is that the lead planner and their staff will know how to handle the situation.
The safety measures discussed below are easy enough to integrate and provide a good foundation for managing risk at your next event. It is true that you can never really focus enough on safety and security, but these guidelines will keep you prepared to respond in an efficient manner.
Stock an Emergency Kit
Having a basic first aid kit is a must for every planner, but an emergency kit includes more than just bandages and medical tape. You’ll also want to have things like flashlights, ponchos, and a set of 2-way radios. Other things to consider include a spare key to your office, directory book of important contacts, and a small amount of cash. Basically you want a tackle box stocked with any item you might need to solve problems before help can arrive.
Organize a Phone Tree
In the days leading up to the event you’ll want to organize a list of contacts in order of who should be contacted first. Keep in mind the best emergency service number is not always 911. For example, I worked on a college campus where it was more efficient to contact campus police first in order to request medical or safety assistance. In addition to emergency services, you’ll also want the numbers for vendor and venue management in case something goes wrong in those areas. The phone tree document needs to be organized in a way that all staff members can quickly recognize which person to contact.
Train Your Staff
One of the biggest inefficiencies you can face in an emergency situation is an untrained staff. You simply can’t afford to lose time to people searching for answers. Realistically, it only takes about 15 minutes to review important safety details with your staff. This includes identifying key staff members, discussing the event timeline, and pointing out locations for restrooms, fire exits, and of course your emergency kit. This is information that every person on the staff, from greeters to servers, should be familiar with.
Create a Contingency Plan
What will you do if your venue unexpectedly closes? How will you seat unannounced guests? What if your keynote speaker gets stuck at the airport? In a perfect world you won’t have to worry about these things, but you should at least discuss them prior to your event. The solution for these types of issues are not always simple, however, they become much harder to deal with when you’re trying to research answers during event day. Once again, it doesn’t take long to put together a contingency plan that includes your list of preferred options, and having this information at your fingertips will provide you with confidence during a crisis.
Plan an Event Walk-through
Visualizing the exact path your guests will navigate through the event can really open your eyes to potential problems. This is why I always suggest hosting a walk-through with staff members a couple weeks before the big date. With this, you literally want to park your car and walk through your venue as your guests will. Be on the watch for potential safety and security hazards as you do this, and don’t forget to consider everything from the perception of attendees, VIP’s, and guest speakers. What are the potential issues they will face when attending the occasion?
Like so many of the other hats event planners wear, the role of safety director needs to be executed with organization and attention to detail. And while this task can seem overwhelming with so many other responsibilities on your plate, the largest responsibility is being able to respond and call the right team for help. Following the strategies here will put you in position to do that effectively.