Safety Is Not a Meetings Industry Priority

Safety Is Not a Meetings Industry Priority

Very recently, I learned that a major hotel company’s Loss Prevention Department does not allow Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to be purchased for their hotels because, they say, it exposes them to more liability.

I learned this when I spoke—on risk anticipation and contingency planning—for an industry event at a hotel owned and managed by this company, and then asked a GM with another in this brand's portfolio who confirmed it.

Even though the hotel at which I spoke has done extensive renovations and is spending another $1 million on meetings upgrades, they aren’t using the money to make people safer.

I was curious to find stats on how many hotels had AEDs and/or policies for or against having them. I turned to a researcher at another industry organization who found the last articles written on AEDs for and in hotels were in 2005 and 2006, and this Wall Street Journal article in 2009 [note that you may need a subscription to access this article].  

I'm also gathering stats on how many convention centers, conference centres, and other related facilities have AEDs (I know that D.C.'s Ford's Theatre does! I'm pleased to see each time we attend a performance).

I also found this 2013 article from Forbes about the "life saving device that is largely ignored." And since 2004, U.S. jets must have an AED on board. But not hotels?!

In the previously mentioned Wall Street Journal article, you’ll read that the American Heart Association said it would not hold meetings at hotels where there were no AEDs (As this goes live, I was unable to verify if this policy stands today).

The importance of AEDs was made clear to me in my reading and in a post years ago on an industry listserv by industry attorney, Jim Goldberg, whose friend died while playing tennis at a club at which the AED was too far from the court to be useful.

In the last few years, I got to know colleague, Julie B. Walker, CMP, of ChoiceMeetings, whose college age daughter, Peyton Walker, died as a result of not having an available AED in her dorm.

Julie provided some basic background information on Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA): 

  • SCA kills more than 300,000 people each year in the US alone—most are in the prime of their life and have little or no warning prior to their SCA event.
  • For those who are lucky enough to receive CPR right away, their chance of survival is 2%.
  • For those who have paramedic/emergency room advanced care—survival rate increases to 5-15%.
  • For those who are fortunate enough to receive CPR & AED caresurvival rates increase to 50-75% (emphasis mine).

According to the Initial Life Support Federation, “The solution to the growing dilemma of premature cardiac death is the availability and rapid application of an easy to use AED—a simple and inexpensive device that can help to protect and extend thousands of lives.”

CPR alone will not save someone in cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association says we could “save 50,000 lives per year with broad deployment of AEDs.”

So tell me, hotel owners, management companies, and personnel, why do you think the liability is greater to not spend the money to have multiple AEDs on property versus spending it to make the guest rooms prettier?

And planners, tell me why we are not demanding AEDs, or like my friend and meeting professional, Terry Blumenstein, CMM, who has for years taken AEDs (yes, they’re portable) with him to programs (even if hotels have them), taking them with us?

If you have AEDs, though they are pretty foolproof to operate, knowing where they are and how to access them must be SOP for all hotel and other venue employees.

You know, it doesn't matter how cool the venue is or how great the meeting: If people are not safe, nothing else matters.

What part of this area of contingency planning does our industry not understand? And why do we not put people and their lives first before anything else?

Here are some resources to consult as well as your own organization’s legal counsel and risk management professionals:

I’ll expand on this and other topics in upcoming blogs and editions of Friday With Joan, to which you can subscribe. I’d love your input below, or if you prefer to be quoted anonymously, email with comments for posting or just for me.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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