With so many headlines noting dangerous or even deadly events, safety is on the minds of many no matter where they go—and that includes both public and private events. That means meeting and event planners must now regard personal safety as an integral component of their planning and preparation. There are many things to think about that will help prepare for—and hopefully prevent—any situations that could compromise the safety and security of conventions, trade shows, and other group events. Here are a few tips for putting event safety first.
Employ Your Sixth Sense: The sixth sense is the unseen. While we cannot see it, we can feel it and feel the results from it. Unfortunately, many people have lost touch with this sense because of hectic lifestyles that cause people to pay less attention to what’s around them, leading to a narrow focus on consumption. The imagination and creative process is put on the back burner while most of us just try to address short-term issues. In the meantime, there are people and groups out there that have nothing but time to think up terrible things and plan out their strategies.
Having a mental practice that anticipates what these terrible things might be and tuning into the world around us requires a heightened awareness. The sixth sense may be employed before an event to prepare for what could happen at a convention. As well, the sixth sense may be used while the convention is taking place to be aware of the environment, enhancing the potential of spotting any suspicious activity. If something does not feel right, then it should be addressed immediately because there is more than likely a reason for that feeling.
Take a Collective Approach: Everyone needs to be involved in the process of planning for event safety—from the client and the convention site hosts to all staff and participants. Everyone has to contribute to ensuring safety. This includes those on-site who can serve as the eyes and ears, employing their sixth sense to be alert to their surroundings down to the maintenance staff of the building and even those attending the convention. Each person involved should have an assignment or component of the safety preparedness plan. This helps divide and conquer all areas that could be compromised with an event, including identification for convention staff, participants, and visitors, as well as the on-site security team.
Share the Knowledge: It is important to have open conversations about safety and security. While no one wants to think about the worst case scenarios, it must be done in order to plan properly and create contingency plans for all types of scenarios. The idea of knowledge sharing goes even farther. If a person hesitates because they think something might not be quite right, then they should talk to someone about it.
For example, consider the cab driver in the recent Boston Marathon bombing. He held the book bag but did not know that he passed off the bomb that eventually killed those at the event. He was simply trying to help get the bag out of the cab. However, every situation now requires more suspicion. If that suspicion is there even as a passing thought, it should be discussed with someone else. It could mean the difference between safety and disaster.
Secure What Matters Most: It is critical to prioritize what needs to be secured whether this includes business assets, sensitive information, or critical infrastructure. In the case of events and conventions, it is important to secure all visitors and participants as well as the business assets present. Once you have defined what matters most, then it is time to look at how those things are vulnerable within the convention or event environment so you can put the appropriate measures in place to secure them.
Keep it Simple: Focus on three or four strategies for safety and security, including visible security staffing, knowledgeof chemical security strategies to identify any potential terrorist activity, and evacuation measures that are necessary for any type of bombing or shooting. Having too many strategies means that none will be done well.
Be Proactive: Too often, strategies involve reactive tactics rather than proactive ones. Get to know the floor plan of the convention location as well as areas that might be compromised. Have a strategy for evacuating the convention hall or event space. Walk the space, and meet with the location staffing. Familiarize yourself with the available emergency and police teams in the area of the event to coordinate efforts in advance. Provide all participants with a plan that outlines precautions and contacts in case of suspicious activity.
Customize Your Plan: There is no single one-plan-fits-all conventions and events strategy. Every plan has to be unique because no event is quite like the next. There will be different locations, points of entry, number sof participants, and potential safety concerns. While the basic processes and tactics can serve as a framework, the other components will need to be adapted to fit the new environment.
Set Benchmarks: Always circle back at the end of an event. Revisit how the safety measures were implemented and how well they did under the circumstances so that you can learn from each event, evaluating what is effective or what should be improved. Building safety and security is a learning process, that can be facilitated by reflecting upon what has been done in order to increase preventive action in the future.
While some advice with security might be to use common sense, common sense alone is not necessarily a formula for success in the day and age when many attacks seem senseless, and some of the scenarios might have never crossed our minds. From movie shootings to bombings at public events, we have to start thinking beyond the ordinary about what could happen—even if it seems hard to imagine.
Anything is possible, so you must have a proactive safety and security plan that can be customized and that involves all stakeholders in the event. Most importantly, it is about employing the sixth sense, which allows us to look at every situation on a different level and connect with those instinctive feelings that can mean the difference between success and failure—possibly life and death—to all involved.