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Emergency Preparedness Panelists Stress Early, Detailed Security Measures

By Alesandra Dubin November 18, 2008, 4:26 PM EST

The emergency preparedness event at Paramount

Photo: Pedja Radenkovi/Brightroom Event Photography

Last week—just ahead of the destructive fires that burned a swath through the region—BizBash gathered Los Angeles planners for a panel on  emergency preparedness at events. Pivotal Events produced and sponsored the program, and BostonCoach and Cvent sponsored along with the event's host, Paramount. Among the panelists were Boston Coach senior vice president of events Catherine Chaulet; Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center chief of emergency medicine Marshall T. Morgan; Paramount fire chief and executive director of fire and emergency services Robert Lucchesi; and the Orange County Sheriff assistant commanding officer of field operations Michael Hillmann. Here are some of their top tips for being ready for anything.

1. Know the risks you own.
If an anonymous caller makes a bomb threat concerning the auditorium where your event is about to start, it's on the planner—not the police—to decide whether to proceed. “It's your risk,” said Hillmann. ”You—the planner—decide whether to evacuate.” If you've invested in enough security ahead of time to scan for things like unattended packages, you'll be more prepared to make the choice.

2. Establish good communication.
Facilitate interaction between all members of the team before an event, and make sure everyone knows how to reach each other if anything should happen. “Hold a pre-conference meeting, determine a communication tree, and compile and distribute a contact list before the event," said Chaulet.

3. Stay up to date.
“Make sure that you have a current floor plan for your event venue,” Lucchesi said. “The building's original plans won't help if they've changed.”

4. Stock up.
In addition to a first-aid kit including bandages, scissors, pain killers, and burn cream, keep food supplies when possible. Lucchesi said that Paramount's own food stores include a seven-day supply of both kosher and non-kosher rations, plus water.

5. Don't rely on an EpiPen for allergies.
Planners are not permitted to stock EpiPens in the state of California, as they are considered prescription medications, Morgan said. If guests have known food allergies, they should carry their own pens.

6. Get the balance right.
Ideally, security will be conspicuous enough to deter threats and inconspicuous enough to allow guests the chance to relax and have fun. Striking a balance between “subtle versus overt" security is the way to go, said Hillmann.

7.Consider your reputation.
All panelists agreed that one major security gaffe could result in the planner never being trusted again with a big event in town. Increasing security might protect your own job.

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