Meetings 101 – More Planning, Less Panic
Natasha Pedigo, CMP, AMR Conference & Events Manager
Being a Conferences & Events Manager comes with a laundry list of “To Dos” prior to conference However, there is one box that always strikes fear in the heart of every planner:
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLAN
I started my event career on the facility side of the business working for a convention center. I was constantly amazed at the number of planners who would come to me wild-eyed and panicking when the storm sirens would sound. It was clear at that point that they were relying on me, the facility, to provide direction and organization for them and their attendees should a crisis situation evolve. While it is recommended that you work with your facility partners, as a planner, you need to have a well-rounded plan in place before ever leaving the comfort of your office.
A fully developed plan should cover such topics as internal chain of command, communication with stakeholders and attendees (immediately following and long-term follow up), preparation for media and outreach to those not attending the conference, such as family members. It is highly suggested that all staff members, especially those who are involved in on-site execution, and stakeholders be involved in the development of the Emergency Management Plan. However, there are a few quick things that you can do to start to mentally preparing for possible emergencies.
- Identify potential emergencies that could arise due to location and/or time of year.
- Is your event located in a coastal region during hurricane season/Midwest during tornado season/northern region during the winter?
- Is your event located near an earthquake zone?
- Has the city, or property, ever made headlines for mishandling an emergency situation?
- Contact your facility partner to obtain local emergency response information.
- Ask for a copy of the facilities emergency management plan
- Request information regarding nearest hospital, urgent treatment center, and pharmacy.
- Locate nearest police and fire stations.
- Acquaint yourself with the facility layout and emergency response equipment.
- Note emergency exit doors and stairwells in the meeting space and guest rooms hallways. Make sure that all exit signs are visible and that doors are unlocked and unobstructed.
- Confirm the locations of fire extinguishers and AED Machines.
- Familiarize yourself with attendees who have identified accessible needs, chronic health issues, or life threatening allergies on the registration form.
- Confirm that the property has proper channels in place to evacuate attendees with accessible needs in the case of an emergency.
- Cross reference your dietary needs and event menus to identify possible interactions and issues. Work with your facility partners/caterers/chefs to streamline dietary needs meals, or prepare specific meals, for attendees who have made their requests known.
- Contact attendees who have identified themselves with chronic health issues and ask how you can best assist them on-site if needed.
Again, these notes are just a few of the many action items that need to be incorporated into a full Emergency Management Plan. And while that process may take time to translate on paper, there is no excuse not to start taking steps today to protect your client and attendees.