The Consideration for a Safe Event

Posted on April 21, 2014

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Last year, the 2013 Boston MuckFest MS was held one week after the 2013 Boston Marathon. Following the tragedy of the Boston Marathon, we carefully reviewed all of our security measures – questioning what we could do to ensure the safety of our participants, volunteer and staff. Our event site (Fort Devens) coincidentally was where the suspect had been relocated to the night before our event. This relocation also created last minute security measures that needed to be addressed.

Collaborating with both local and state police, we immediately began to question all aspects of the event from the entrance of vehicles to the bag check tent. One key addition we made was a bomb-sniffing dog who roamed the event site from set-up through break-down – a first time scenario for any Event 360 event.

Today, planning a safe and secure event is more rigorous than in the past. One of the most stressful aspects of working in events, is that anything can – and most likely has – occurred before. And if it hasn’t, it still needs to be considered. Whether it was planning a long-distance walk during an extreme heat wave, or an unthinkable tragedy changing (big to small) elements of an event, having contingency plans in place can truly make an uncontrollable situation manageable. When done effectively, it can also make your planning stand out to participants, staff, volunteers and local authorities.

Here’s a list of some factors and processes to consider:

  • When planning, work closely with your event staff, and consider consulting an expert, to create alternate plans should an emergency situation occur. We suggest creating an “Emergency Response” document that examines every imaginable situation.  This document should consider an array of situations, from inclement weather to public safety concerns, and clearly spell out action plans based on scenario.
  • The Emergency Response document should also have an obvious chain of communication, clearly showing how information is communicated both internally and externally. For example, who will be the liaison with local authorities? How will messaging be communicated to volunteers and participants? What IS the message to be sent?
  • Once the Emergency Response document is complete, don’t underestimate the value in clear communication with all stakeholders. Stakeholders, when considering an event, are groups of people who could – and would – be affected should an incident occur.  While the obvious stakeholders are your participants, do not forget to include local jurisdictions, hospitals, event staff, and volunteers. The Emergency Response document should be sent to local authorities, in particular Police and Fire Departments, for review before the event.

During the event, be diligent – and when in doubt, call it out! The safety of your stakeholders should be the number concern. However, if planning and communication has been established, it is important to remember that the authorities are the experts for keeping public events safe, and should be called in when necessary. In general, if you see something or someone suspicious, contact the authorities. Be ready with all details to describe the situation at hand. If you are simply notifying the authorities of a “suspicion”, be sure to state that you only have concerns and would like advice and support. While you can ask them to be discreet when possible, also remember that they are the experts and will act accordingly.

Keep in mind that a safe event can also translate into higher police and security costs. When doing a long-distance run, do participants need a location to store bags? Like us, your local authorities may require you to hire a bomb-sniffing dog. Doing an event that has alcohol in a public park? Based on state and local liquor laws, it is possible that State Police may be required, whereas private security was acceptable in the past.

At the end of the day, keeping your event safe, could incur higher fees. However, the ultimate price of a safe event with happy stakeholders who are willing to support your event in the future s priceless.

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