Making Safety Seamless in Event Planning
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Most large gatherings occur without incident. But that is often due to a lot of careful and thorough pre-planning, preparation and initiatives put in place before each event.
The best precautions are virtually invisible. But, more and more, attendees are being shown extra levels of security if only to ease their concerns.
Dr. Linda M. Robson, Associate Professor in Endicott College's School of Hospitality Management, is a big believer in proactive risk management of which public safety is a major component. "Safety needs to be broader than just looking after attendees," she urged. "Safe means that the event space is free from dangers to everyone in it . . . staff, supplier partners, attendees, and anyone who wanders through the space. Secure means that we have plans and policies in place to attempt to maintain a safe environment. As part of a risk management plan, we should have a lock-down plan and an evacuation plan that can be adapted to each event space. This doesn't mean we have to create these plans, often the venue will have something."
Communication is key should a crisis situation arise. "A communication plan should be developed for the event, as a whole," said Robson. "This would include a hierarchy that outlines who speaks to whom in different situations."
Sara (Hunt) Grauf, Vice President of Event Strategy & Services for the San Francisco Giants, concurs. She is a firm believer in having an effective communication response ready to go if needed. "You can't possibly predict or be prepared for every scenario," she conceded. "But what you can do is put a reliable, robust and efficient communication/command structure in place so that when something bad does happen, you are able to manage the situation responsibly. This is one element of preparedness that everyone can proactively control."
Grauf insists that transparency is the key to effectively communicating safety and security concerns to event attendees. For the most part, people will not complain about extra precautions if it means they are being kept safer. In fact, most will appreciate the additional care and concern shown.
Grauf stated, "It is important, however, to strike the right balance of keeping your event attendees informed, but not overwhelmed, by the security provisions you are activating on their behalf. There's no need to let them know what's going on behind the scenes with cargo X-rays or bomb dogs. Just make sure that the measures that impact their experience -- like a longer screening line or a new bag check policy -- are well-communicated so they can be prepared."
Finally, guard against taking too simplistic or narrow a focus. Don't make the mistake of worrying about one single safety and security concern, because each event is singular and different. "I believe we need to be more holistic and proactive," Robson said. "Safety and security issues typically include low probability/high consequence activities: an active shooter, terrorism, natural disaster, etc. Instead, we need to develop a broader perspective so that we can be proactive."
Grauf added, "A heightened focus on event security doesn't necessarily mean that event strategy needs to fundamentally change. With advances in technology, communications, building infrastructure and so forth, we should be able to provide guests a safe experience that is still creative, energizing, memorable and impactful."