Having an emergency response plan in place before a meeting or event—and/or an actual emergency—occurs is seemingly obvious but not always followed advice in our industry.

Our 2018 Meetings Today Trends Survey found that an alarming number of meeting planner respondents were not very concerned about security issues and natural disasters (only 31 percent). A majority didn’t have a written security/natural disaster preparedness plan in place (70 percent).

[Read more: Crisis Management Not in Planners’ Plans]

Sustainable conference management company MeetGreen created a template to help planners take that critical first step toward developing a meetings emergency plan.

"At MeetGreen we develop an emergency response plan for all of our clients’ events,” said MeetGreen Founder and President Nancy J. Zavada. “It is a vital part of the planning process and we have had to execute the plans on several occasions.

“The hardest part is often getting started, which requires knowing what should be included in a preparedness plan,” she added. “To assist other event organizers, we developed a template to assist them in building a plan based on their specific needs.”

MeetGreen’s emergency response plan was designed to help staff rapidly react to virtually any type of crisis.

“Whether [navigating] a participant's medical emergency, an evacuation for a building fire, a weather or natural disaster, or human-caused disturbance such as a terrorist act, the emergency response plan should give your team the protocol to deal with the situation,” Zavada said. “Without pre-planning, response times may be slower and a favorable outcome more difficult.

“Our goal in freely sharing this template is to help everyone in the events industry ensure the safety of themselves and their attendees,” she continued. “Truly, the life you save may be your own.”

Following is MeetGreen’s Emergency Response Plan template for events. The company recommends that a president or CEO, or other leadership in your organization, approves the final plan before implementation.

MeetGreen's Emergency Response Plan Template for Meetings & Events

POLICY STATEMENT

Having an Emergency Response Plan is a critical component of our responsibility to our staff and to those we serve. The hope is that these plans will never have to be used.

However, in the event that something does happen, we want to be sure staff are as prepared as possible and will know what actions to take to protect our staff and participants’ safety and wellbeing.

As an event team member, you are expected to read this plan in its entirety although some components will only be applicable depending on your role and nature of the event.

PRE-PLANNING PROTOCOL

1. Select an Emergency Response Team Manager and team for each event. This should be done at the beginning of the planning phase when conference teams are assigned. The Emergency Response Team Manager is responsible for reviewing and maintaining the emergency response plan, monitoring threats and hazards, and serving as the response team lead on site in the event of an actual emergency.

An emergency response team may include:

  1. Facility appointed Emergency Response Team Lead for the facility: This person is the point person who works in tandem with the Emergency Response Team Manager.
  2. Emergency Communications Manager: Assign a person to act on behalf of the organization ensuring there are no inappropriate or unauthorized statements made to the media about the situation. They will monitor news and communicate with staff as well as manage on-site press and distribute press information.
  3. Event Housing Manager: Communicates with registration staff, transportation company, tour company, child care and housing bureau.
  4. Registration Coordinator: Communicates with temporary staff; sets up travel services help desk, provides information on airports, car rentals, trains, buses, ride-sharing; help desk for international attendees.
  5. Speaker Manager: Communicates with the speakers by phone, email and in person at the event.
  6. Exhibit Operations Manager: Communicates with general service contractors, exhibitors, and crisis team.

2. Conduct a site inspection. As part of the site inspection process:

  1. Identify emergency exits, fire alarms and extinguishers. Ask about the venue’s alarm protocol.
  2. Identify AED locations and first-aid kits.
  3. The event facilities have (or should have) emergency plans and should be contacted immediately when an emergency occurs. Their emergency response plans should be part of the plan. Review this plan as part of the pre-conference meeting.
  4. Designate an Emergency Management Room: During the site inspection for an event, designate a private room that can be locked and is not located near the main meeting space and registration area. This room may be used for other purposes during the event, but can be turned into an emergency management room if necessary.
  5. Complete OSAC’s Hotel Security and Safety Assessment Form: https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=16105

3. Prepare legal contracts. Insert contract language for the safety of attendees into all venue and accommodations contracts including indemnification and force majeure. Negotiate or encourage the client to negotiate for an extension of the hotel conference rate for attendees and staff in the event attendees are unable to leave the area. Ask insurance agency for a cancellation insurance policy that covers events being canceled or disrupted due to weather conditions, terrorist threats or labor strikes.

4. Gather participant information during registration.

Ensure the following information is also included on the registration forms:

  1. “In case of emergency” section
  2. Emergency Contact name/relationship
  3. Address
  4. Phone: cell and home/office
  5. Medical conditions or allergies that the organizers should be aware of?
  6. If so, ask them to please list the physician’s name and number.

ON-SITE EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROCEDURES

The following procedures provide a guide to work from in the event of an emergency. Although no two situations will be identical, these steps will always be applicable.

1. General Emergency Call Procedures:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Establish the exact location of the emergency (e.g., Grand Ballroom B in the West Tower).
  3. Assign a person to call the event’s Emergency Response Team members to notify them of the identified emergency and that emergency personnel will also be called.
  4. Call the emergency telephone number (or 911) established in call procedure information.
  5. Explain the type of emergency (e.g., fire, medical emergency, etc.).
  6. Give your name and a telephone number and/or house phone extension at which you can be reached.
  7. Wait for further directions from emergency personnel.
  8. If safe, wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Have designees posted at intervals (e.g., at the door to the meeting room, outside the elevators, at every major turn between the outside door and the location of the emergency) to direct emergency personnel to the emergency.

2. Possible Scenarios. The following potential scenarios should be included in the Emergency Response Plan with procedures for each:

  1. Terrorist/bomb threat

[Partner content: Tips to Mitigate Bomb Threats in Your Facility]

  1. Medical emergency
  2. Fire
  3. Severe weather

DOCUMENTATION AND FORMS

In addition, the following will prove invaluable during an emergency and should be included in the plan.

  1. Meeting Event Summary Report. Include an updated summary for every event with dates, locations, facility plans, and emergency team assignments.
  2. Incident Report Form. A readily-accessible form to report an incident at the event both for the hosting organization and any emergency personnel.
  3. Emergency Response Communication Chart and Key Contacts List. This easy-to-use document puts all of the vital information in one place and should be printed and provided to each member of the Emergency Response Team.

SUMMARY

Staff members should be asked to familiarize themselves with the plan prior to each meeting and be ready to take action when and if it becomes necessary.

Someone’s life—including your own—may depend on it.

For a free download of MeetGreen’s Emergency Response Plan, click here.