David Adler (@DavidAdler) is the C.E.O. and founder of BizBash.
In the event world, the tragedy of the mass shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month is the manifestation of organizers’ worst nightmares. Imagine an event that you planned being involved in such a tragedy. As the C.E.O. of one of the largest event media companies in North America, I know that the professionals we engage with touch more than 30 million attendees each year at events, festivals, parades, meetings, trade shows, and celebrations.
What the event industry needs to recognize is that event pros really are the first line of defense in emergencies and should be trained as a form of “first responders.”
Anyone involved in creating an event, meeting, festival, conference, or celebration needs to be empowered to take responsibility for the pop-up communities that we are creating—when good or bad things happen. These new powerful communities become the “town squares” for the people participating, whether these groups are global conferences, PTA meetings, or anything in between.
Event pros have more responsibilities than ever, not just for the physical event, but for cyber security and the sensitive information collected at gatherings. While our industry has the best of intentions it is still undereducated and under-trained on the basics of safety and security.
I am proposing adding the following to the discourse for anyone who works in events or is responsible for events as their business.
Create a roles and responsibilities handbook: Commission a team of experts to advise the industry on its responsibilities in the case of a disruption or potential danger at events.
Train the next generation: Hospitality, tourism, and sports academic programs need to include event safety and first-responder classes in their curriculum as a graduation requirement.
Capture and share best practices: Anyone who is involved with serious disruptive safety issues needs to document key learnings in a universal database that can be used to keep others in the industry informed on best practices.
Create networks: It is critical that local meeting and event associations conduct networking and panel sessions on safety and security with local venues, suppliers, and local law enforcement to foster relationships that could be critical during crisis situations. Local networks are a fountain of knowledge and can pass tips and best practices on an organic basis.
Organizer Best Practices
Create a safety, security, and first-responder plan: All events need a detailed plan, including checking for safety equipment and venue preparation during site inspections.
Know the players in advance: Event professionals need to have a contact list of whom to deal with in their community. That includes local law enforcement officials, the venue leader responsible for security, as well as other entities, vendors, and suppliers involved in an event.
Assess content risk: Planners must evaluate whether their speakers or other event content could create a safety or security hazard—such as a controversial speaker who might create ill-will among attendees or spark protests—and plan accordingly.
Choose a leader: Every event organizer needs to designate a safety and security leader. That person must take command during a disruption of any type.
Take cyber precautions: Staff involved in digital registration needs to be trained in security and privacy concerns, with ticketing and registration taking the lead in best practices and precautionary training.
Train the troops: Anyone who works on the front lines of an event, from volunteers to senior managers, needs to take, and complete, basic first aid training, including defibrillator usage and the Heimlich maneuver.
Prep and practice: Events, meetings, festivals, trade shows, and live gatherings of more than 50 people should require safety briefings and drills for all the front line teams conducted by a qualified senior manager.
High-level training for decision makers: Senior managers of events should receive training on protocols of actions to be taken in case of event disruptions of any type.
Stay current: Senior managers should meet with experts on law enforcement at least every two years to keep in on the latest group safety techniques and thinking on responses to event disruptions.
Communicate safety plan with attendees: All events need a public safety plan included in their event apps, websites, and chat bots that provides attendees with emergency numbers, local hospital information, as well as the event security details.