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Event Management Tips: Planning for and Managing an Incident or Emergency On-Site During an Event

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In my last tip I outlined the importance of having a back-up plan when organising an event. In that post I reviewed the natural occurrences that can disrupt an event, such as adverse weather, and man-made concerns like bomb threats or terrorist activity.

In this blog I am going to discuss why it is important for Event Managers to plan for a major incident or emergency, especially in these days of terrorist attacks. It is the event manager’s responsibility to make sure all visitors and workers are not exposed to health and safety risks. This includes during the event and during the setup and takedown of the event for those who have access at those times.

The level of planning for an emergency will be dependent on the size and scale of the event as well as other factors including the degree of risk, the audience, the location of the event and its duration. A safety plan should be created that references all these aspects.

It is important to communicate all your plans with your employees and the events team during the planning. The plan should designate who is responsible for the various aspects of safety if an incident arises, as well as the communication paths and decision-making structure.

Good communication and liaison is important in order to share how risks will be controlled with the venue, management, emergency services and suppliers. It is also needed to communicate your prepared safety plan effectively.
This link gives an example of a guidance note for event organisers when producing an event emergency plan.

Planning for incidents and emergencies at an event

emergency excit

Planning for Event Staff:

  • Create an event handbook
  • Know your location – understand the threats
  • Check venue security provisions are in place
  • Instigate a direct line of reporting in an emergency
  • Make sure all staff have emergency phone numbers for both event staff, venue and emergency services stored in their mobile phone contacts
  • Make sure staff know the emergency exits and first aid points
  • Confirm staff next of kin and passport details are up to date
  • Carry some cash at all times as this may be needed in an emergency
  • Download CitizenAid app on mobile phone
  • Risk Assessment: Consider the key risks, both for staff and delegates, include contingency plans to deal with situations of limited impact as well as responses to more serious emergencies
  • Produce and share emergency procedures with your staff, as well as incorporating the venue’s emergency procedures. Ensure that all relevant staff members understand what they should do in the event of an emergency, no matter what their normal working role is, including raising the alarm. Identify to them the location of exits and emergency equipment. They should know from whom they should receive instructions etc.
  • Have a pre-event briefing with all staff, show the National Counter-terrorism office video Run Hide and Tell
  • Pre-event make sure you charge phones and battery packs
  • Have radios on back-up in case the network goes down
  • Be mindful of local staff who may be affected as the incident is occurring in their local area or city

The Emergency Plan

Met_Police_Response_Car

 

This should cover the following depending on the size and location of the event:

  • Mobilising onsite resources to attend and tackle the incident
  • Removing people from immediate danger
  • The management of any casualties including providing medical assistance
  • Raising the alarm and informing the public and telling staff what they need to do. It is worth having a code that you only use to tell staff there is an incident
  • Alerting and assisting emergency services
  • Incident control
  • Traffic management, including emergency vehicles
  • Controlling crowds and attendees including evacuation if safe to do so. If the incident is terrorist related you may need to instigate lock-down – follow instructions from the emergency services
  • Evacuation of disabled people and other vulnerable classes of people including children who may become separated from their parents. Plan for additional assistance requirements
  • Handing over to the emergency services where applicable
    Dealing with displaced and non-injured attendees; if in lock-down provide refreshments
  • Protecting property
  • Ensure that the plan is flexible to cope with changes in events
  • The plan for emergency situations should set out the overall framework for the initiation, management, co-ordination and control of personnel and assets in an emergency onsite

Emergency Procedures

  • Check all escape routes are available, well lit, unlocked and unobstructed
  • Appoint people to be responsible for implementing the emergency procedures in the event of an incident or emergency
  • Ensure that a clear management structure is place, identifying the key decision makers
  • Discuss plans with the police, fire and rescue service, the ambulance service, emergency planning and, for fixed premises such as stadiums and arenas, the venue management
  • Agree with the emergency services on issues such as access routes to the site, the use of any grid-referenced maps, rendezvous points, and transfer of authority for a major incident from the event organiser to the emergency services
  • Stopping the show/conference: Identify key people and initiate a show-stop procedure, communicate with presenters and attendees; have an agreed public announcement for this.
  • Evacuation – Remain calm and encourage attendees to keep calm. Work as a team. If evacuation is required direct people towards emergency exits
  • Lock-down: After stopping the conference or show direct people to a safe area within the building; explain to attendees why it is not safe to leave. Provide refreshments if required. Keep in contact with the police and emergency services regarding the situation
  • Review after the incident. If incident impact has been limited you may be able to start the show or event again. Only restart after consultation with emergency services. Make sure staff and services are ready and in position for the restart
    After an Incident
  • If evacuation proves necessary, make sure delegates are assembled in the correct holding area, check everyone is alright. Listen to emergency services for information about when to release attendees
  • If in lock down make sure attendees have refreshments, if in a hotel check whether bedrooms are available, work with the venue or hotel operations management
  • Only allow people to leave when instructed to do so by the emergency services
  • Assist delegates if they require accommodation, transportation, flights etc…
  • Have a debrief afterwards with events staff as well as venue see what went well and what can be improved upon.
  • Review incident and emergency plans for future events

Find out more
B2B Event Management Logistics Tips – Risk Assessment, Health and Safety, insurance and contingency planning

Health and Safety Executive and Excellent Government website on event safety and emergency procedures

Managing an event

Incidents and Emergencies

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Why it is so important to have a back-up plan when organising events, and how to deal with problems

Now that winter is here it has reminded me how important it is to have a back-up plan. Unforeseen circumstances can affect your event causing them not to run to order.

Along with risk assessment and health and safety is always advisable to have a plan B.  So many outside circumstances can affect your event.  It is also very important to make sure whatever event you are holding that you have the right kind of insurance cover which includes cancellation.  You should also have all the details of attendee emergency contact details and a detailed process for a disaster with line of management contacts and a plan for implementation.

  • Natural Problems -Weather is a factor outside of our control, especially if organising an outdoor event, you should always have an alternative plan in case the event cannot go ahead outside.
    • Snow can affect not just transportation of delegates getting to an event; it can delay speakers or key attendees attending.  Remember to consider the date and time of year you are holding your event. How probable is weather going to affect your event by blocked roads due to snow or heavy rain causing flooding.
    • Winter time can also be a time when people tend to get colds or flu.  Have a back-up if your key speaker is unable to attend.  You may have to change to another speaker or the order of the programme.
    • Heatwave – It is lovey to have sunshine for your event but too much heat can also be dangerous.  Make sure you have plenty of cover and shade, fans or air conditioning, plenty of water for people to drink.
    • Fire can also affect a venue or area, be aware of previous history of any of these events to the venue/location.
    • Drought can cause water shortages and some areas have to reduce the availability of water.  You may need to use bottled water instead of jugs of tap water for drinking.
    • Strong winds can affect power as well as transportation to an event and if you are holding an event outside you need to make sure all power cables and marquees and free-standing temporary buildings, posts, signage, fencing etc… are anchored.

 

  • Man Made Problems – A Strike this can affect the venue, staffing, and public transportation to an event.
  • Terrorism – if travelling abroad check with government websites regarding travelling to certain countries.
  • Politics – streets being closed due to protestors, check with local authorities and police as to what is being affected.
  • Power outage – hopefully this can be temporary but always check with venue what they do in the event of this happening do they have back-up generators?
  • Fire – At venue make sure that you are aware of all emergency exits and also the drill in where to meet should this occur.
  • Health – If required have a medical team and ambulance on site.  Ill health or food poisoning, check all food standards and certification, know where the nearest Dr Surgery, hospital etc…
  • Security – make sure that you have the right level of security in place whether it is security on access or if an exhibition make sure expensive equipment is secured.

On the whole most of the time the event will run according to plan, but the better prepared you are the better the outcome should the unexpected happen.

 

Tips – Final Preparation Before Going On-site at an Exhibition

Image result for check list on-site exhibition logistics

Preparation Just Before Going On-Site

You have done your check list and double checked that everything has been ordered and re-confirmed this with your suppliers. You have gone through the timeline and made sure that you are up to date and have everything ready to go. Now use this list to remind yourself of other things you need to have achieved:

  • Check all monies and invoices have been paid.
  • Check you have ordered any necessary:
    • Power
    • Telecommunications facilities
    • Equipment
    • Stand cleaning
    • Insurance
    • Furniture
    • Floral displays
    • Catering
  • Check and inform the appropriate people of any travel arrangements, hotel accommodation and meeting rooms that you have booked.
  • If you are having any speakers represent your company at any of the sessions make sure that they have travel and hotel bookings and that these have been confirmed. Check that they have been sent their seminar session information including session times, plans of the conference rooms and exhibition layout.
  • Make sure that any staff who are due to attend and help have been sent details of the exhibition, including your stand number and hall. They will need to know what days and times they are attending and when to meet, and they will need a show plan.
  • Have a conference call or meeting with everyone attending to run through the schedule of the show and what is expected from their participation.
  • Make sure all staff to understand the objectives and goals you want to achieve at this exhibition.
  • Prepare staff – make sure they have a complete knowledge of your company and its products and services, both current and new, and also that they know the relevant market trends and competition so that they are able to talk effectively with prospective customers.
  • Run though pre-training required by staff and make sure they are familiar with any equipment, demonstrations or presentations that they will need to use or refer to.
  • Run through the process of lead collection and allocate staff in the home office to follow up these appropriately as soon as possible after they have been generated.
  • Make an inventory and pack items to be taken to the show, such as literature, give-aways and lead forms as well as equipment, software and stock. These can often be delivered to the show by the stand builders or by using the services of a transportation freighting company. Make sure that if you are exhibiting in a non-EU country that you have filled out the correct customs forms for clearance and re-entry back to your home country.
  • Confirm that freight has arrived and all contractors are on schedule.
  • Check that you have sent out badges or passes as required.
  • Prepare an exhibition handbook with all information about the exhibition and your company’s participation, as well as supplier contact and names.
  • Plan to travel out during the build-up of the stand to make sure all is running to schedule and that you are there to supervise the stand build. Take photo of stand before show opening.

The next blog tip will be live on-site logistics

Conference & Seminar Tips: On-Site Management, Programme Schedule Running Order, what should be included

Running Order with Venue or Hotel

  • This is like the Bible of the event and should be the reference that all the event team have access to so that they understand what is happening at any given time during the event. The more complicated and involved the event the more important it is to understand and refer to the running order. It should contain all contacts, facts and procedures for the smooth running of the event and programme.
  • The organiser of the event will have drafted their own running order and the venue will also have their own version of the function sheet. It is most important that both running orders reflect the same timings and actions so that the entire programme is covered and that they both agree on the details about each venue and part of the programme. This all should have been reviewed in a pre-conference meeting between the event manager and the venue staff.
  • Always run through the duties and responsibilities of all the staff involved on-site with them. Have a regular team meeting to go through how things will happen during the event so everyone knows what is expected of them and what their responsibilities are. Go through each day with the venue staff to make sure that any last minute changes or amendments to their Function sheet reflect those on the event managers running order.

Suggestion for the items to include in a conference running order:

  • Contact details of all staff involved in the event from the organiser’s side as well as the venue and client. Listed should be their name, job title, responsibility, and mobile phone or pager number.
  • All suppliers involved in the event with name, responsibility and contact details
  • Contact details of hotels where any of the delegates are staying as well as other venues where social events or meetings may be happening
  • Destination Management Company (e.g. when event is abroad), transport, exhibition builders, shippers – basically anyone or company involved in the execution of the event.
  • A miscellaneous section that can contain the following:
    • Account information: what is to be charged to the master account
    • Signature authority
    • Special instructions referring to any part of the programme, such as food and beverage information, dietary considerations, security, and delegate bags
    • VIPs: who and when they are coming, any special groups and activities
    • Any extra meetings apart from the official programme and when and where they are to be held
    • Extra staff/hostesses: when they are expected at functions, their roles and allocation
  • Conference meeting room information to contain the following, normally in date order:
    • Name of the room, where it is found, date and time the room is used
    • Set up of the room for each stream, date and session
    • Audio Visual equipment to be present in the meeting room, and the name of the person responsible for making sure the set up is correct each day
  • Signage for the programme:
    • What signage is required, when it is to be set up and where, when it is to be taken down, and who is responsible
  • Day by day schedule of the event – this contains all the detailed information regarding what is happening in organising the programme, to include:
    • Schedule of specific timings, what the activity is, where it is located, notes and comments, and who is responsible. This can include the pre-event day that covers set up of the event and arrival of client etc. as well as the actual event day, and post conference activities
    • Catering schedule to include what is served when and where. This should include menu and drinks for each refreshment break, social receptions and meals, plus an indication of quantity

Every one involved in the events team should be supplied with a running order of the event. At the start of each day there should be a run through of what will be happening by the event manager with the team, as well as with the venue duty manager and banqueting manager. Hold a review at the end of each day to make sure that any mishaps do not recur the following day, to note any amendments and identify any ways to improve the smooth running of the event from day to day.

Good communication, and keeping everyone who needs to know informed of what is happening, is paramount.