FROM SEVERE ALLERGIC REACTIONS to weather disasters, a variety of emergencies can occur at an event. Kat Philips, operations director for the National Cherry Festival, spends a good part of her year preparing for the worst. She gave MIM+E her tips on how to be ready for anything. Collect important information. During site visits, ask if the venue has ever had to evacuate before and if it has an emergency plan. Planners should always have a layout of their venue and know the location of fire extinguishers, fire hydrants (for outdoor events), emergency exits and first aid stations.
Have contact info for the local emergency manager who coordinates fire and police for the county or city where the event takes place. If appropriate, try to meet face-to-face with local fire and police to coordinate reactions to an emergency.
Also, keep a copy of registration lists and a staff roster so if you have to evacuate the venue, you’ll know if everyone is accounted for. Put the lists and venue layout in a folder with your emergency plan (see below) and distribute copies to any staff tasked with assisting in an emergency.
Know how to deal with medical emergencies. Event planners should know the nearest and the next-nearest hospital. Consider how emergency vehicles can access the event and know the directions to give to emergency personnel. “Nothing is worse in an emergency than not being able to get your victim the help they need,” Philips says.
Communicate clearly with your people. Be sure your staff members know what to do—and not do—should something go wrong, and don’t load your volunteers with emergency responsibilities. “Having your staff know what their role is in any emergency is key,” Philips says.
Make and distribute an emergency plan. Philips recommends that planners have a concise template emergency plan that can be customized for each event. The plan should be given to staff and fellow organizers.
An emergency action plan should:
>> List all necessary emergency contact info.
>> Provide notification procedures.
>> Give the steps for dealing with common emergencies like severe weather or a lost person.
>> Note what type of medical personnel will be on-site.
>> Specify who cancels an event if an emergency occurs.
“Hopefully you have a great emergency plan and you never have to use it,” Philips says.
Kat Philips is the operations director for the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City and a member of the Michigan Meetings + Events Editorial Advisory Board.