After events involving dangerous and fatal situations, security and safety are at the forefront when planning a major event. One of your most important roles in event management is to ensure that all people are safe at your event. The well-being and ensuring the safety of both your keynote speaker and conference attendees is of the upmost importance.
Why Event Safety Matters
Today, planning a safe and secure event is more difficult than in the past. One of the most stressful and recognized aspects of working in events, is that anything can – and most likely has – occurred before. And if it hasn’t, it still needs to be considered. Whether it was planning a long-distance walk during an extreme heat wave, or an unthinkable tragedy changing (big to small) elements of an event, having contingency plans in place can truly make an uncontrollable situation manageable. When done effectively, it can also make your planning stand out to participants, staff, volunteers and local authorities.
Creating an Emergency Response Document
When it comes to the issue of safety, event professionals spend way too much time thinking about how to react to an accident. Instead, this energy should be directed towards preventing the accident in the first place.
These are some factors and procedures that will help make your event safer and decrease the chance of a crisis:
- When planning, work closely with your event staff, and consider consulting an expert, to create alternate plans should an emergency occur. We suggest creating an “Emergency Response” document that examines every imaginable situation. Create this safety plan well in advance of the event, then circulate it to the following groups: the client, the venue management, the police, the fire and rescue service, the ambulance service, and the local law enforcement authority. This document should consider an array of situations, from inclement weather to public safety concerns, and clearly spell out action plans based on scenario.
The event safety plan contains information under the following headings:
Event overview: This is to help put into context what the event is for and for whom. Referencing back to your original brief will help you write this section.
Venue overview: This should cover information such as the contact/directional details, a floor plan and any specific access information.
Risk assessment: This shows all readers that you have considered all the potential risks, but more importantly how you are minimizing or removing those risks.
Security/stewarding: Include information on how many staff will be on site and any processes they will need to follow. There is information earlier in this chapter on different security options.
Organization and contractors: You should include a little information on the people you’re going to have on site in your event safety plan. An organization chart helps show outside readers how your on-site team will be structured and who will be responsible for what.
Medical/first aid provision: Detail who on site will be available to provide first aid attention and how they can be contacted.
Fire precautions and equipment: Your health and safety advisor and production manager will be able to help you fill in this section of the event safety plan. Readers will want to know what your exit routes are, how many extinguishers you have, where they are and who will use them in case of an emergency.
Emergency procedures: This is an area where the local authorities will want to see lots of detail and feel confident that you are responsible enough to deal with emergencies on site.
Accident reporting and investigation: An overview of your process needs to be included.
Provisions for people with special needs: Adhering to the Equality Act is important. See earlier in this chapter for some basic pointers. Provide information in your event safety plan as to what visitors with various special needs will need to do.
Communications: Provide a basic overview of your communication plan in your event safety plan.
The Emergency Response document should also have an obvious chain of communication, clearly showing how information is communicated both internally and externally. For example, who will be the liaison with local authorities? How will messaging be communicated to volunteers and participants? What IS the message to be sent?
Once the Emergency Response document is complete, don’t underestimate the value in clear communication with all stakeholders. Stakeholders, when considering an event, are groups of people who could – and would – be affected should an incident occur. While the obvious stakeholders are your participants, do not forget to include local jurisdictions, hospitals, event staff, and volunteers. The Emergency Response document should be sent to local authorities, in particular, Police and Fire Departments, for review before the event.
What to Do During the Event
During the event, be meticulous – and when in doubt, call it out! The safety of your all attendees and your speaker should be the number one and most important concern. However, once planning and communication has been established, it is important to remember that the authorities are the experts for keeping public events safe, and should be called in when necessary. Therefore, if you see something or someone suspicious, do not hesitate to contact the authorities.
When contacting them, be prepared to share with them all details to describe the situation or person that alerted your attention and caused a reason for concern. If you are simply notifying the authorities of a “suspicion”, be sure to state that you only have concerns and would like advice and support. While you can ask them to be discreet when possible, also remember that they are the experts and will act accordingly. Being respectful and a conscientious listener is another important factor during these situations.
Keep in mind that a safe event can also translate into higher police and security costs. Based on your type of event, certain costs to ensure safety will be non-negotiable. In some cases, you will need a bomb-sniffing dog, in other cases, just the local police. Every event varies, but the cost of the well-being and safety of all your stakeholders is priceless.
This does however, mean that keeping your event safe, could incur higher fees. But remember, it's better to be prepared. At the end of the day, you want people to enjoy themselves at your event so that they are willing to support your company and your event in the future.
Event security and attendee safety has and always will be important. However, recent accounts of horrifying attacks occurring at events has made it essential for event organizers to be even more prepared on-top of it than ever before.
It may take more time and more work, but a safe and successful event will always be worth the long hours.