As noted by Event Marketer, the right venue is critical to attendee safety. Why? Because not all venues are equal when it comes to security. First, assess the event space for ease-of-access:
- Are there enough doors to handle the number of people you anticipate?
- Are emergency exits clearly marked and easily accessible?
- Is the space open and easy to navigate, or cramped and confusing?
- Can the venue provide you with an emergency exit plan or other safety documentation?
It’s also worth speaking to venue staff and management and asking how they manage security and emergency procedures with their staff. Look for a business that’s willing to communicate its safety procedures and expectations with attendees as a matter of course, not an afterthought.
2. Assess Risks
Next, assess risk potential in order of likelihood and importance. Here’s an example: Your event is planned for the spring, features a local celebrity and is happening on the same weekend as several other festivals and sporting events. So, your risk assessment list might look like this:
- 1) Crowd concerns — Well-known hosts and presenters can draw larger crowds which increase the risk of physical altercations or trampling risk if there’s an emergency.
- 2) Flooding issues — Spring weather is unpredictable, meaning you need a flood mitigation plan in place if you’re hit with rainstorms. Power outages are also a concern.
- 3) Traffic problems — With other events going on nearby, parking and traffic could be issues for your attendees. How many access routes are available? How many parking stalls? What about public transit?
By considering likely risks and potential consequences, you can draft a risk-priority list to inform your event strategy. It’s always smart to have action plans in place for navigating likely issues.
3. Create a Plan
Maximizing attendee safety means mapping out what’s going to happen, how and when. For example, do you need to move attendees from one location to another during the course of the day? Plan out this transition. Decide what time the transition should start, what type (and how many) notifications you’ll give attendees and then map out the transition route — even if it’s just down the hall.
Here’s why: The enemy of great event safety is poor planning. When event staff doesn’t know what’s going to happen next or what they’re expected to do, they’re prone to make mistakes or overlook more serious security issues. Your best bet? Draft action plans which give event staff the details and direction they need to make informed choices and help attendees stay safe. For emergencies such as fires, floods, power outages and storms the CDC has a solid catch-all plan, while the DHS offers a good starting point for an active emergency situation planning.
4. Document Contingency Plans
Always document your contingency plan and make it available to all event staff. Key aspects of a contingency plan include:
- What’s supposed to happen — A brief overview of how your event should run if no issues arise.
- Specific problems and remedies — For example: What happens if the room or venue you’ve booked is suddenly unavailable? List backups starting with those coordinated by the event venue and other alternate locations as needed.
- Strategies for dealing with attendees — Your contingency plan should include suggestions for event staff to help limit frustration or ensure that attendee frustrations are effectively dealt with by management instead of front-line staff.
In addition, create a chain of command. All event staff must know who’s in charge and who they need to talk to if something goes wrong. This is critical in emergencies — assigning staff specific roles and giving them a reliable contact point reduces their overall stress levels and helps them make better decisions.
5) Execute Your Plan
What’s your day-of event plan? You need one that covers the specifics:
- Event access
- Check-in process
- Handling of VIP/Priority/General ticket holders
- Availability of food and water both on-site and directions to off-site locations
- Indoor temperature: Are heating/cooling systems working?
- Traffic flow
- Accessible bathrooms
- First aid and fire prevention
- Maps, including both event-specific layouts and emergency exits
In addition, make sure you’ve got at least one backup for everything on your list. Is one entrance door broken? There’s another around the corner. Is the bathroom out of order? Have a few portable toilets on site. Did a rainstorm flood the parking lot? Have a secondary lot set aside for attendees.