Humanity has been plagued by tragedy since the beginning of time. Solomon of the Bible opined that “what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” History has a tendency to be forgotten and repeated and even though the tragic can never be quashed completely, progression has been made. Thankfully, we have become wiser at preventing and dealing with emergency situations that would not have been possible even a decade ago. When it comes to planning an event, having appropriate safety crisis management protocols in place is a non-negotiable.
Crisis Management Plan
It takes time planning every detail of a trade show to make sure everything goes right; yet oftentimes not enough thought goes into knowing what to do when something goes wrong. Worst-case scenario wrong. It’s an uncomfortable and sometimes controversial topic, but it has to be addressed honestly, otherwise mistakes can be made and scenarios overlooked. Not having a crisis management plan can result in chaos and pandemonium, or worse. Now is the time to evaluate your emergency plan, and the following guidelines can help you reinforce it:
Communication Before and During a Crisis
Reliable and proper communication should be at the heart of any crisis plan. It should go without saying that if everyone is not properly trained and on the same page, implementing your plan will be difficult. Develop your plans with the help and advice of professionals who can point out any faulty or inadequate strategies. Once your plans have been finalized, make sure you hold a training session for you entire staff to familiarize them with the details. There should be a chain of command included in your plans. It is sometimes referred to as an emergency call tree. This communication model is used to notify specific individuals in case of an emergency. It operates something like this: The first person the Show Manager calls will be the one who initiates the call tree. That person will notify three other individuals who will then notify four other people who will continue to notify the rest of the contacts down the line. To ensure success, put the following into practice:
- Always do a test run of your call tree.
- If a contact cannot be reached, make note of it and keep going.
- The last person on the list should let the Show Manager know that all calls have been made and received.
- A backup initiator should be on the list in case the first person cannot be reached.
Have a Plan for Each Scenario
Every scenario comes with its own challenges because each one carries unique risks. If a fire alarm goes off, you and your personnel need to know how to evacuate everyone out of the building as quickly and effectively as possible. In the event of severe weather, such as a tornado, attendees will need to be evacuated to the safest location available in the event space. The following scenarios should have comprehensive planning (this is not a complete list and should only be used as a launching pad to facilitate your own judgment) :
Familiarize yourself and staff with the fire escape routes and exits at every venue. Know the location of fire extinguishers, and have portable ones near any cooking demonstration areas. Assess any other potential preventable fire risks and plan accordingly.
Your venue should have a medical response team on hand in the event of a medical emergency. All vendors and personnel should know how to alert the medical team (usually via house phone) and how to give them an accurate location. Most convention centers and hotels have an AED (automated external defibrillator) on the premise, so it’s important that staff is aware of its location and how to access it.
Maps of refuge areas in case of severe weather should be distributed to all vendors and staff, along with a protocol tailored to the specific event space. Make sure that all procedures have a provision for special needs attendees. The size of the crowd will determine the timing and space needed for evacuation to areas of safety.
Active shooter scenarios are difficult to prepare for due to the unpredictable nature and how rapidly those situations evolve. It’s always best to work with local law enforcement to help you prepare your plan. Homeland Security has recommended these action steps in conjunction with notifying authorities.
One of our best defenses against terrorism is to be on constant alert and to notify authorities immediately of any suspicious behavior. Physical and procedural efforts of strengthening security meant to deter attackers, known as target hardening, and good communication are essential to minimizing attacks. Determine whether the venue has the ability to go into lockdown to reduce access to victims. And as always, work with members of law enforcement to help you formulate your plan.
The secret to managing a crisis according to Andy Gilman, of CommCore Consulting Group, is “not good vs. bad, it’s preventing the bad from getting worse.” In matters large and small, never underestimate the power of being resolute and determined. Having the proper protocols in place for your event should empower you to approach your event with confidence.