Frontline Hospitality professionals updated their emergency response skills today in Columbus, Ohio, as experts shared techniques learned from recent tragedies across the country, involving armed attackers. “Planners are an important part of the team, keeping attendees safe in case of an emergency,” said Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC) assistant general manager Ryan Thorpe.

The Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training acted out scenarios with convention center staff, local hotel personnel and the community in realistic exercises that included simulated gun shots, screaming, yelling and running.

The adage “run, hide, fight” taught in the past has evolved into “avoid, deny, defend” as the best way to survive an attack, said Thorpe. Instructions given to participants included clearing the area if a shooter is reported, locking or blocking the door so the shooter can’t get in, and defending yourself and others by doing something unexpected when confronted—throwing a chair, garbage can or even a stapler.

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“These quarterly trainings help everyone feel safer because they help people know what to do,” said Don Brown, executive director, Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority. The team has hosted with everyone, from presidential parties to 200,000 guests at Arnold Sports Festival, and works closely with law enforcement and first responders to develop contingency plans. Intensive monitoring systems are in place all over the campus, and bicycle patrols monitor the convention center and parking lots.

Know Your Exits

The role of the planner in keeping people safe starts long before a threat enters the building. GCCC has developed comprehensive master security plans based on regular security and threat assessments and shares condensed versions with planners who use the facility. Event professionals can use those resources to create a safety binder that includes a list of who is in the building, with contact information, evacuation routes and local emergency contacts, Thorpe suggested.

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Most of the time, the emergency is of a different sort: medical emergencies, a suspicious package, smoke or fire, or a traffic accident. Training covered fire extinguisher lessons, best practices for evacuations and proper use of CPR equipment.