The need for increased safety and security was clearly an area of concern for the meetings and events industry in 2016. More than ever, meeting planners are feeling the pressure to plan and implement comprehensive initiatives that safeguard their attendees and protect the integrity of their events.
At IMEX America 2016 the Exhibitions and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative (EMSSI) announced their intention to build a public private partnership that aligns convention security guidelines with federal programs and the US department of Homeland Security Safety Act Office.
“Sadly, the issue of security has never been more important to our industry” – Ray Bloom.
This isn’t new territory for event and meeting planners but it is one where regulations and industry expectations are changing. Meeting Professionals International (MPI) noted the “recent acts of terror at events both in Europe and the U.S. have members of the industry seeking education and best practices.”
“What are the risks and vulnerabilities to venues?” asked Bruce Davidson of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Safety Act Office. “Many of the challenges are not linear. They can pop out of anywhere.”
Leading by example, MPI has already aligned with the new safety initiative, along with two dozen other industry groups.
What others are saying
In the wake of some devastating terror attacks this year, planners are being forced to face up to the possibility of a crisis occurring and to create plans that mitigate such a risk.
Meredith Pallante writes how she incorporated security into a six-day executive-level event held in Israel. That experience bought up a deeper thought, “we need to change the current dialogue on event safety and security. We must shift from the idea that talking about current conditions and safety plans will negatively impact our events by ‘placing the notion of risk’ into the minds of attendees.’”
When educating attendees on event safety MeetingsNet points out that any approach needs to be “consistent and fastidious in communicating emergency policies and procedures… Keep in mind that different generations absorb information differently,” they advise.
Crafting a crisis management plan in the first place consumes a large amount of time and resource. However, Plan Your Meetings provides a guideline on how to assess physical safety requirements at a venue, communication plans for staff and attendees, training and how to react when propelled into ‘fight or flight’ mode. No matter how well briefed attendees may be, without fully preparing staff and volunteers and making them familiar with every detail of the crisis process, then planners are effectively immobilising one of their most important audiences.
In a world where disasters, manmade or natural, could just be around the corner, 2017 presents an opportunity to ramp up efforts to further educate and guide the meetings industry in the importance of safety and security at events.