Recent terrorist acts and global unrest have made guest safety and security a top priority among many planners. And although proper medical care is always a necessity at events, it is sometimes inadequate or simply overlooked. “An event planner is essentially throwing a party at their ‘house,’ so they want to take good care of their guests. Event planners are held responsible for their attendees’ conduct, health, and safety,” says Dr. Andrew Bazos, chairman of CrowdRx, an event medical services company based in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.
To help keep guests in good health, industry experts and pros offer some key advice for event and meeting professionals to consider.
1. Be prepared.
“Even for a small incident, like a paper cut, you want to be prepared with a Band-Aid,” says Alex Pollak, president of ParaDocs, a New York-based medical services company. Safety consultant Brian Avery of Maitland, Florida-based Event Safety & Security Services agrees, saying planners need to supply a basic first-aid kit, as well as a specified location where people can report and seek treatment for incidents.
In addition, organizers should bring an A.E.D. (automated external defibrillator), if possible. But they need know how to operate it. “Many event planners and production companies carry their own A.E.D.s but their staff are not always trained on how to properly use them. These devices are relatively simple to use but proper training will eliminate potential problems during an emergency situation,” says Pollack, whose company offers classes on the medical equipment.
2. Know when to hire help.
While event staff may be trained in C.P.R. and A.E.D. use, planners should seek out professionals when necessary. “Planners should not provide care beyond their scope. Depending on the size of the event, I would have roaming E.M.S., establish a first-aid center, or have an ambulance on property,” Avery says. “The size of an event is not always the [factor] determining the likelihood of an incident and the requirement of E.M.S. services on site [though]. Many of the extreme events today—mud runs, running of the bulls, inflatable runs—require E.M.S. on site due to the potential for injury.”
Bazos states that dehydration and alcohol problems are common at music events and among young attendees, while older crowds at more subdued events like tennis matches or charity events seek help for cardiac issues. Plus, at outdoor events and festivals, ankle injuries are prominent due to uneven terrain combined with alcohol.
For events with more than 1,000 patrons, CrowdRx, which provides medical care for large outdoor events like Bonnaroo and Coachella, normally staffs one E.M.T. at a minimum. That person can provide on-site basic first aid, as well as patient stabilization until an ambulance or advanced medical team arrives, Bazos explains. For a crowd of 5,000, the company provides E.M.T.s and paramedics as well as a standby ambulance.
A planner should conduct a hazard analysis of the event to determine the danger associated with the activities or the type of people attending an event, Avery says. “An event planner's job is to understand the event they are planning. ‘I didn't know’ is not an excuse.”
In addition to hiring medical personnel and supplying equipment, Avery stresses the need for an established communications plan and protocols, such as who determines an emergency, who initiates the call to E.M.S. and police, who remains in contact, and who on the event side is collecting incident data. “The development of an emergency response plan is key to the success of any event because it provides planners with opportunities to vet the event and determine the potential hazards associated with the event and establishes a gameplan to mitigate known and foreseeable hazards,” Avery says.
Pollak adds that larger events also require a risk or safety manager who is in charge of both medical and security, ensuring that the medical staff and security officers work together and have a clear understanding of responsibilities. Once an event reaches 250 guests, it requires a certified crowd manager, Avery explains. This can include police, security guards, E.M.S., fire and rescue teams, or trained crowd managers. Certified crowd managers, which include event planners themselves, help with identifying emergencies and threats, moving crowds, sheltering, and basic response.
4. Work with local authorities
“At larger events, such as outdoor concerts or races, New York mandates us to notify the 10 closest emergency departments a month in advance,” Pollak explains. ParaDocs also alerts local hospitals of the event in case there is a major emergency.
But, as Avery points out, laws, regulations, standards, and best practices vary state by state, so it’s important to check with local authorities to determine the requirements concerning medical services, security, and fire. Avery suggests contacting the local fire marshal's office, along with the city or county, to determine if there are any special event permit requirements and ordinances. “Often these laws and regulations can be overlooked, which can put the event in jeopardy of being shut down,” Pollak adds.