The best way to face an unexpected emergency is to expect it.
An event is often a pleasant and a funny moment, but sometimes emergencies occur. And in these cases you are able to see if the event organizer is professional or if he improvised. The best way to face an unexpected emergency is to expect it. That is to predict the unexpected events, or at least to predict many of them. It seems to be obvious but in practice it’s not. Here are 10 basic advices (perhaps “fundamental”) to prevent or to minimize the impact of an emergency and so to avoid bad impressions and hard judgements regarding your professionalism.
1. The audience and the venue: who and where
The first things to think about are: who and where. Are we organizing a job meeting in a hotel or an outdoor music festival? Every kind of event is exposed to different type of risks, some more than others. Is the audience composed of middle-aged managers or vivacious young people? Which are the most dangerous sides of the venue? The stairs? Are there little obstacles in the garden? And the pool? If you considered a buffet dinner at the courtyard, do an inspection in the dark and check the lighting in every point.
Congressional hotels and centers experienced every kind of situation, but the historic residences and unconventional venues don’t. Familiarize yourself with the venue and imagine which danger and/or accidents may happen, then ask yourself: if this unconvenient happens, what do I do? With this simple work of imagination a great quantity of traps can be neutralized. If you want things going well be prepared they’re going badly.
2. Build up an emergency Team
Don’t skip this step: identify some people in your team and build “your own team” for emergencies. Assign them their roles and train them all together, so that everyone knows everything, including each role of the people involved. If in the venue an organization for the security exists, get in touch with it and make a briefing session all together.
It’s important that each person knows what to do in a certain kind of emergency. Give to everyone a notepaper with the names, functions, telephone numbers, positions (where to find each other), eventual shifts, materials and procedures. Having a plan is certainly useful, but it’s useless when no one knows it. The emergencies aren’t just about accidents: for instance if the electricity runs out, who should I call? Make sure that there’s always a person that connects your team and the personnel of the venue, and possibly, not the project leader.
3. The personnel and the volunteers
If you have to hire unknown hostesses and stewards, find some time for a briefing reunion and explain which behavior they must have in case of emergency.
The same must be done for eventual team of volunteers, organize a meeting regarding their roles and responsibilities. Explain them the things that they mustn’t do, such as the use of risky equipment and drinking alcoholic beverages. Train them about the behavior to be taken in case of evacuation.
4. Information about every participant
At the moment of the subscription it’s possible to ask to every participant an emergency number, their house number, of their husband/wife or a relative. It’s a very important information in case of an accident or sudden illness, and it’d be really embarrassing asking to colleagues or acquaintances.
Furthermore the registration paper should contain information regarding their health (pay attention to the privacy rules!): chronic pathologies, medicines, food intolerance, disability, etc. Collecting these information during the registration isn’t difficult (you can put them as an optional), but in case of necessity and hurry they might be impossible to find.
5. A minimum of equipment
A first aid kit is mandatory and has to be big enough. Take an advice from a doctor on how to organize yours, familiarize with its contents and learn how to use the equipment. It’s just about some basic notions to use while the competent rescue team arrives, but these can save a life and your reputation. Get informed if there’s a semiautomatic defibrillator in the venue, but the best solution is to provide your own one and to learn how to use it by attending a Qualification Course of few hours.
Also be sure to have some basic medicines with you, free of risks. A meeting planner that asks “does someone has an aspirin?” is a horrible show. If the event is outdoor you could put a tent or a gazebo as a presidio. Prepare a huge reserve of bottles of water, especially for the personnel who is working under the sun. Fresh water and sun hats are a perfect tool to avoid problems.
6. An SOS network
If the event measures a certain dimension (a hundred of participants) collect information concerning the location of the Policemen, Firemen, ambulance, hospitals, pharmacies, etc. You might want to visit them before, it’s better if they know you on person. Also provide the presence or the availability of a doctor. Don’t simply rely on the efficiency of the venue personnel: most of the time it works, some other times it doesn’t. In these rare cases if you just stand still, you just make the situation worse and also your reputation. If you’ll know how to move fast and well, you’ll really impress.
7. The weather
For a smart planner checking the weather is obvious. But what happens if the event must be canceled because of a climate event? What if in the day of the event the transportations are interrupted? If the plane bookings must be postponed? Being prepared to these type of circumstances make the difference between a professional and a quickie organization. Everyone is available to bear some inconveniences if they see that the planner has the situation under control. Otherwise they’ll express pitiless judgments.
8. Insurance coverage
Find a good insurance agent and seek guidance. Not only he’ll be able to pledge a good insurance policy, but he’ll also inform you about the possible negative events that you haven’t considered, and about the following risks, such as a damage claim or legal complaint for responsibility inspection. Having your back covered is a good thing for you and for your relationship with the client.
9. A plan for emergencies
A good planner should show to the client, with the event program, an emergency plan, share it and make it approve. Even though it’s impossible to foresee every negative event that may happen, a structured plan can sustain the majority of the eventualities and contain the consequences of the accidents. Earlier the planner can prepare a format of the plan, a sort of outline to be adapted every time, and this simplify a lot the work.
10. Keep calm and carry on
Keeping the calm in emergency situations isn’t always easy. But internalizing a personal “protocol” with the fundamental steps to do may also help. We suggest 2 important steps:
– try to contain the problem by solving it with the help of a person or a small team, relieving them from any other task;
– if you are the project leader, focus on carrying on the event by minimizing the consequences of the emergency state.
If you are a bit skeptical you may allow yourself to be a lot optimistic. Keep up the good work.