Mitigation, media and muster points: Discussing emergency plans at your pre-conference event
Risk management, security procedures and emergency planning are all top-of-mind with today’s meetings industry professionals.
Just like events – pre-conference meetings (aka pre-cons) come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve been at pre-cons with three people and with 20 people. I’ve been at pre-cons with a formal agenda and with no agenda. I’ve been at pre-cons with my client present and on my own.
While there is no “one-size-fits-all” template for a pre-con meeting, there has always been one non-negotiable point of conversation that I have insisted on: thoroughly reviewing emergency procedures.
Sadly, on countless occasions we’ve been met with the comment, “no one has asked us to discuss this information before.”
With 23 years of experience behind me, it is my assertion that being thoroughly prepared in advance, engaging in a face-to-face and comprehensive discussion with the venue, and having a fully informed and equipped client, sets the stage for the planner to deliver a cohesive and impactful response to an emergency situation should one arise. Our clients/employers look to us to be the source of calm and expertise.
The following describes my company’s internal approach – and I’m sharing this only to spark conversation and exploration into your own practices. (Comment below and let us know!) Just like pre-cons, there is no “one-size-fits-all” or definitive emergency plan – ours is only one example.
Customizing your emergency plan document
Several weeks before each event, one of my team is responsible for customizing our emergency plan document for the upcoming event. Updating this document requires a collaborative effort between the client, the venue and us.
The completed document is then shared with the client and the venue in advance, and ultimately, thoroughly discussed at the pre-conference meeting. In addition, we provide all stakeholders with a final hard copy of our plan onsite – so everyone is on the same page.
Here are the components of our high-level emergency plan document that complements additional written procedures for specific emergency situations such as tornadoes, flooding, terrorist activity etc:
- Client details: event name; event dates; primary contact’s name, cell and email; additional contact’s name, cell and email; client’s media spokesperson’s name, cell and email; client’s insurance details – insurer, policy number and emergency contact number
- Planner details: lead planner’s name, cell and email; team members’ names, cell and emails; company owner’s name, cell and email; company insurance details – insurer, policy number and emergency contact number
- Venue details: venue name, address; dedicated venue contact’s name, cell and email; hours venue contact is onsite during event; after-hours venue contact’s name, cell and email; overview of venue’s onsite emergency response team; overview of fire alarm system; list of emergency equipment onsite; overview of relevant staff training (AED competency); list of in-house chain of command; overview of how emergency information is communicated internally
- Event details: What is the role of the client in an emergency? What is the role of the venue in an emergency? What is the role of the planning agency in an emergency? Where do delegates congregate if required to leave the building? What is a suitable muster point for the core team?
- Emergency contacts: name, address and phone numbers for the closest local hospital, urgent care facility, ambulance service, fire department, police department, 24 hour pharmacy
- Crisis communications checklist: at the time of an emergency, communications throughout all of the event stakeholders is critical and should be consistent, and therefore not ad-hoc. We’ve created a checklist of action items that helps us work through: the first alert; getting the situational facts; informing key people; preparing for media calls or visits; what to do when reporters arrive
- Incident fact sheets: we include four or five blank tables where the following information can be documented: what happened; when did the incident occur; where did the incident occur; extent of property damage; cause (if able to confirm); involved persons’ names, employer and contact information; extent of injuries; informant’s name, employer and contact information; date and time logged; names of persons in charge onsite from police, fire, medical and other
- Media contact record: we include a table where any contact with media personnel is documented as follows: name, cell phone, agency name, inquiry made, response given, who gave the response, date and time logged
While I’ve been blessed to only encounter minor incidents onsite in my 20-plus years, I am confident that for each event my team and I have been prepared. And we’ve been prepared because I deliberately choose to heed the following:
In advance, create a comprehensive written emergency plan.
At the time, follow the prepared plan.
Immediately afterward, document everything.