As an event planner, planning and executing a memorable event is far from your only responsibility. You also have a duty to keep every guest, attendee, and volunteer out of harm’s way and to ensure they are cared for if something disastrous happens. But what does that involve, exactly?
Keeping everyone safe at an event is actually one of the most important responsibilities the event planner has on their hands. The current situation around COVID-19 will probably put this even more on the forefront in terms of new safety practices around delegate health and hygiene. But for now, let’s focus on safety in the context of providing physical security around your events.
You want to do everything in your power to ensure your events are as safe and secure as possible. Should an injury of any kind happen and it comes out that you didn’t take every reasonable precaution to prevent it, there will be trouble. You could even end up dealing with a lawsuit, perhaps even criminal charges – never mind the damage this could cause to your reputation.
So let’s take a look at some of the most important things you need to do to keep your events safe:
Hire Certified Security Contractors
There exists a dizzying amount of security agencies that will gladly protect your equipment and attendees. These agencies are not all created equal, however. Just as with any vendor, you need to practice due diligence in order to avoid hiring a bad contractor.
Here are a few things to look for in a security contractor.
- Relevant certifications, such as The Security Institute’s Advanced Certificate in Event Security and Safety.
- Client-first communication. Your contractor should be completely transparent about scheduling and logistics. They should also be willing to give you access to their scheduling system.
- Minimal points of contact. A good contractor will put the client first. That includes ensuring they know exactly who to contact for their needs, and don’t have to jump through multiple hoops based on what they’re calling about.
- A high standard of excellence and a good reputation. When a security contractor is professional, efficient, and knowledgeable, it shows. People will speak well of them online. Pay attention to that and look for an agency that has good online reviews.
- An understanding of your industry. It is best to hire an experienced contractor that knows what they’re doing as far as processes and procedures are concerned.
Related reading: 10 essential tips to reduce event risk
Plan for the Worst
Believe it or not, a big part of successful event planning lies in knowing how to mitigate and manage risk. It’s therefore critical that for each event, you work with your team to device an extensive crisis management and incident response plan.
This plan should, in broad strokes, cover a few things.
- The types of emergencies that are likely to happen at the event. A tornado is not, for example, a likely scenario if you’re hosting an event in south Texas, but it is a possibility for an event hosted in Missouri.
- How to recognize a potentially dangerous scenario and metrics for determining the level of risk a scenario poses. What sort of impact will it have on attendees? Staff? Is a security response or full-scale evacuation necessary?
- Who is responsible for managing each incident? A first-aid certified volunteer can probably respond to a heart attack, but they are not equipped to deal with a dangerous person.
- An evacuation plan. Attendees must be able to leave your event quickly and easily, with minimal risk.
- A chain of command. Who can a volunteer contact if they notice something dangerous? Who is responsible for coordinating a security response?
Beyond that, you must also consider your event’s layout. Entrances and exits must be controlled, but they should also be arranged with efficiency in mind. Your vendor booths should be positioned in such a way that they don’t impede movement. Finally, you must be cognizant of your venue’s capacity – never try to oversell.
Related reading: How to handle a big crisis at your event
Planning aside, you’ll also need liability insurance for both event staff and attendees. In the case of the latter, you’ll want to submit a liability insurance certificate to your venue before your event, taking care to cover any of the major risks for which you’ll need coverage.
Work with Venues for Greater Safety
As noted in a recent keynote at International Confex, the UK’s leading event industry conference, complacency must be avoided at all costs. And it’s not just on the shoulders of event managers to protect people – but venues too.
The keynote, helmed by former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent Nick Aldworth and Figen Murray, who lost her son in the 2017 Ariana Grande bombings, covered something known as Martyn’s Law. Named for her son, Martyn, it is meant to act as a framework for safer events. It covers five key principles:
- Public venues and spaces must have access to free advice and training on counter-terrorism techniques
- Venues must be allowed to openly and accurately assess their vulnerability.
- Where vulnerabilities are found, venues must do everything in their power to mitigate them
- Venues must have a counter-terrorism plan in place.
- Local authorities must plan for counter-terrorism.
While your event is unlikely to suffer from a terrorist attack, it’s still imperative that you follow Martyn’s Law to the letter. It covers more than just terrorist attacks. It can feasibly refer to any act of violence and can ultimately be summed up with a single statement by Figen: “Don’t ever assume at any venue that security is a given. You take your own life into your hands when you attend these places.”
Speak to Your Vendors
Last but certainly not least, speak to the vendors you’re coordinating with to make your event a reality. Ensure they all have valid insurance certificates, and that their products are both well made and failure proofed. Again, due diligence is your friend here.
A comprehensive security plan is meaningless if your vendors aren’t briefed on it. Make sure everyone you work with, from the people who provide your equipment to guests selling their wares on the show floor, understand what you’re doing to keep your event safe and what role they play.
About the Guest Author: Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.
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