Live Shooter Attack in Texas: A Reminder Planners Must Consider the Unthinkable

In the aftermath of a mass shooting at a church in Texas that killed 26 people just a month after an attack at a concert in Las Vegas killed 58 attendees, the responsibility of event planners to keep people safer became even more urgent.

“Most planners don’t like to think about the unthinkable,” says Fran Rickenbach, executive vice president of the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI), who spearheaded the Emergency Preparedness Certificate Program that launched its first two-day training course in April. But the numbers show that more people are now taking the time to consider worst-case scenarios and plan for them. More than 90 people have gone through the three programs she has produced, and another one is planned for November 14 and 15 in Las Vegas.

AMDEI works with legal consultants and MSA Security (the company tasked with safety for Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S.) to address best practices for risk management, emergency-operations planning and liability for everything from medical emergencies to weather events and live-shooter incidents.

Rickenbach has the following tips for what planners absolutely must do in today’s world—to prepare, mitigate damage when an event occurs and recover after the fact. Just in case.

Prevention

  1. Compile complete contact information (mobile phone number, email and Twitter address) for everyone who touches a program—attendees, suppliers, partners and the DMC (local DMCs can be an invaluable resource in case of emergency, because they know what resources are available and where).
  2. Make sure people know how to contact you after hours (which is often when medical emergencies occur). Appoint someone to monitor the conference’s mobile app and twitter feed, as they can be a way people reach out.
  3. Take time to understand the venue, what it offers and what you need to fill in. This include fire plans, alarm sounds and meanings, and staff trained in first aid.

Mitigation

  1. Follow script established during role-playing of scenarios with staff before the event. This will help everyone play their part and remain calm.
  2. The advice in the case of an active shooter used to be to shelter in place; but now authorities recommend getting to a place of safety and helping others do the same—all before calling 911.
  3. Wait for authorities to declare an area safe before returning or allowing others to do so.

Recovery

  1. After an event, when everyone has gathered, take roll call.
  2. Identify a reliable source of news (sheriff updates or agency websites, for instance)
  3. Keep everyone informed either through the contact info secured beforehand and/or through a simple web platform that directs people quickly to what they need to know.
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