HOW TO: PLANNING A SAFE EVENT

We’ve covered a lot of topics on event safety over the past few months – from examples of catastrophic event failures, to recent technological innovations in the world of venue safety. Today we will cover the most important topic of them all: how to actually plan and execute a safe event. There are many key steps to ensuring your event and eventgoer’s safety – from planning, coordinating, communication, and execution – let’s go back to the basics and explore how to successfully hold a fun event with a safe environment. Together we’ll run through the mock planning of a Travis Scott concert, due to happen at the end of the year. 

Here’s where we’re at – we have a Travis Scott concert coming up and we’re the head of event management, not only is Travis relying on us to create a safe space for him to do his thing, but also the loyal fans and stakeholders are counting on us to ensure everything goes smoothly and the concert is a success. The planner has both a moral and legal responsibility to keep everyone safe, so it’s vitally important that we get this right. Where do we start? 

Step 1: The Perfect Place

The first step is finding the perfect venue. We must consider many factors when selecting a venue for a concert: 

  • how many people will attend the concert? 
  • Will the venue have enough space to accommodate the number of fans, both seated and standing areas? 
  • What about access for people with disabilities? 
  • Does the venue have it’s own security staff? 

If the venue does not have its own internal security staff, we must hire our own, and make sure everyone is on the same page. As Bruce McIndoe, President of WorldAware stated: “If you go to a place that doesn’t have safety services, you must hire your own…or find a new place, those are your choices, you can’t ignore it.” 

Once we have considered all of those factors, we can pick our perfect venue. For the sake of this example, let’s say the beautiful and safety robust Madison Square Garden in New York City. The next step falls under the planning and preparation phase as well – creating a risk assessment plan. In an ideal and perfect world, every event would run smoothly, yet that is not the case. The unexpected happens all of the time, and it’s important to be prepared for both expected and unexpected risks. 

Step 2: RAP – Risk Assessment Plan 

What exactly is a risk assessment plan you ask? Well, this is a common document that event safety providers fill out that considers all of the potential risks for an event, no matter how big or how small. Not only is it important to identify risks, but extremely important to lay out a plan for each potential risk, and how you and the staff will mitigate it. 

This is a common beginning phase for event planning (there’s even a book for dummies on it), that categorically lays out each potential problem so nothing catches you by surprise. We must consider everything – from venue overviews, temporary infrastructure (stage, stands etc), and electrical systems, to during/post event plans, such as waste disposal, exit paths, medical accommodations, food/drink plans, etc. As this is a common step in event planning, there are templates and checklists you can find online that will ensure all of your bases are covered. 

Along with this risk assessment plan, we must develop a strict plan of action in case of emergency. As we know, expect the unexpected – especially in life threatening situations. Questions we must consider: 

  • How will the staff communicate during an emergency? 
  • What does the on-site response look like? Response time? 
  • Who are the emergency points of contact?  

A great way to create a robust risk assessment plan is through the use of diagram software. A recent innovation in the world of event safety, diagram planning softwares allow you to create a virtual replica of the event, and create a visual representation of exit paths, walkthroughs, and other important factors, up to the most minute of details. 
Once we’ve touched upon each detail of our event, venue, and risks, it’ll be almost time for the concert. We’ve coordinated with all of our suppliers, mapped out MSG via our diagram software, created a plan of action for how the event will run, ran through all of the potential risks, and plans to mitigate them in case of an emergency. The next step is to get on site and provide training. 

Step 3: Training & Communication 

It is so important that everyone is on the same page during an event, so in the final stages before the concert, we must venture down to the actual venue, gather up everyone involved in the event, and provide safety/communication training to make sure everyone knows what to do in case of emergency. 

There are a few different ways to provide event training for staff on hand, but one of the most thorough ways is to hire a respectable outside vendor, such as the Event Safety Alliance. The ESA has regular workshops, training programs, and on-call staff that can come to an event and help train everyone involved. 

We will also want to determine how everyone involved will be communicating during the event – open lines of communication are crucial during an event as everyone must be aware of what is going on at any given time. This not only goes for event staff, but for the concert goers as well. Your fans and attendees must be on the same page as event staff to ensure public safety. Security Magazine details some of the best ways to communicate with the public, best of which is social media. “It is the largest spoken language in the world, with an excess of 1 billion public posts made worldwide every day.”

Step 4: The Big Day

It’s finally here, the big day. Travis Scott will be performing at MSG tonight – have we taken all of the necessary steps to ensure this concert runs smoothly? We’ve identified risks, organized mitigation strategies, proper training to the staff and open lines of communication for the public. Battle stations everyone, we’re ready for anything they can throw at us. 

Step 5: Review, Reflect, and Learn

We did it – the event was a success. Travis went out there and killed it, the fans loved it and everything ran smoothly, save for a few minor mishaps. The concert may be over, but the event planner’s job is not. The final step is to reflect on the event and planning process, and ask yourself: “what could we have done differently?” Pull the team together, go through a debriefing on both the good and bad, soak up the learnings and apply them to your next big event. All in all – well done. 

In reality, we cannot prevent 100% of emergency situations from occurring – that is simply the nature of life. But by following each and every step to a T, we can damn well try. 

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