Hope for the best but plan for the worst. We hope that everything goes to plan at all your events but sometimes it doesn’t. A glitchy AV system or a sick keynote speaker may seem like disasters on event day, but are you ready if a real emergency hits? At the end of the day, the safety of attendees (and planners) is of utmost importance at any event, so while you have those emergency chargers for your laptop and emergency power bars for when you can’t find time for lunch, do you have an emergency plan to protect the most important thing—your guests? To help you make sure you’re prepared for an emergency, Smart Meetings asked experts John Whitney IV of Emergency Concierge International and Joseph Veneman of StaffMate Online their top tips for emergency planning.

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What is the most important thing in emergency planning for an event?

Actually having a workable plan is Whitney’s top piece of advice. Do not assume that someone else has an emergency plan (e.g. your venue) as Whitney warns that “confirmation bias plays a key role in these situations. A busy planner asks a DMC if they have an emergency plan in place. The DMC replies ‘yes’ and the planner checks it off the list without ever verifying its efficacy and applicability.”

Similarly, Veneman said that one thing all planners should be doing is creating a plan. Hire an expert if necessary, he says as “the cost of getting it done is vastly less than the cost of liability and the ‘hit’ to your reputation.”

How should tactics change based on location?

Veneman says, “According to most experts, a good emergency preparedness plan will consider environment, event type, specific event location, and experience type.” In the events world, these four criteria change daily and, therefore, an emergency plan must be specific to your location and event type.

“From a grill fire, disgruntled exes, tornadoes and structure collapses to hazmat and medical situations; the list is as daunting as it is endless,” Veneman said.

More: Emergency Preparedness Lessons from ADMEI 2019

Who should planners talk to about risk management for events?

Whitney and Veneman both mention the venue as a main point of contact here, however, the catch is to always review the venue’s plan to ensure it is applicable and satisfactory. Veneman also suggests contacting local government or non-emergency police if you have specific questions or concerns about an event. While you should always get in contact with your venue, you should also have your own emergency plan. This is where Whitney suggests talking to a company that considers the holistic needs of the meetings and events industry and coordinates all the components into a comprehensive strategy.

What do people do in emergencies that they shouldn’t do?

Fail to act and fail to follow-up. These are, according to Whitney, the two biggest things that people fail to do in emergencies. “In an emergency, you must react immediately. You have to decide, commit to your decision and take action,” Whitney said.

People often don’t follow-up after the bulk of the event has passed. To avoid this mistake, Whitney says, “attention must be paid to the recovery phase. It is important to discuss what could be done differently, what needs to be done to prevent future occurrences, and to ensure that the emotional well-being of your staff and attendees is addressed.”

What are the most important technologies in terms of risk management?

Online communication tools, such as StaffMate Safe from StaffMate Online, allow employees and supervisors to seamlessly access vital information in an emergency. Whatever system you use needs to store the following information that all stakeholders from company officials to first responders can access:

  • Exactly where staff is working
  • The precise event location (not just an address, the exact pinpoint even if you are, say, in the middle of a field)
  • Each worker’s emergency contact and medical information
  • A beacon icon to notify stakeholders of an emergency instantly
What are the three most important things to do in an emergency?

Emergency situations are stressful and hectic, so if you can only remember three things to do, Whitney recommends you remember these:

  • Get yourself to safety! First and foremost. Move away from the threat to a safer area. If you do not get yourself to safety, you will not be able to assist others.
  • Notify Emergency Services as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Assist others in getting to safety once safe to do so. Ensure you are not putting yourself at risk, but attempt to help others to safety or assist in injury management if trained to do so.


Smart Tips:

  • Text ‘SAFE’ to 345345 for 5 Life Savings Tips You Must Use in an Emergency
  • Keep an eye out for items or people that look out of place.
  • Use the buddy system, travel in pairs or let someone know where you are going (especially at night).
  • Locate the nearest exits everywhere you go (at least two).
  • If you see something, say something.
  • In an emergency, don’t wait for someone to instruct you.