by Kelly Coppola | January 22, 2018

Kelly Coppola of PCMASenior director, business event strategy, for the Professional Convention Management Association, Kelly Coppola recently sat for an interview to discuss the most basic steps planners can take to ensure a safe event.

How have security concerns and the concept of "duty of care" changed in recent years, in terms of how they affect meeting/event organizers and the way they do business?
Meeting and event organizers are more aware today of the legal considerations and liability that must be "baked" into every decision they, including those pertaining to things like fun runs, serving alcohol, transportation for staff when working late and their journeys to and from the venue. All of this should be an ongoing consideration among event organizers as they ensure everyone is aware of a comprehensive emergency action plan and that "duty of care" remains at the top of the agenda.

What are the most important pieces of information that a planner should know about the host destination, venues and event when they're in the initial stages of planning the security aspect of the event?
Essential factors include the following.
• Having an in‐depth emergency plan in place, inclusive of key contact details, preferably cellphone numbers;
• Being familiar with the location of the closest hospital, ER and pharmacy, and having an emergency medical technician [EMT] on-site;
• Being very familiar with the location of the venue - whether it's a dangerous or unsafe area and planning delegates' safe journeys to and fro, especially in an emergency.

What's the best way for event organizers to communicate the importance of security issues with the event managers/stakeholders?
Organizers must share the emergency plan with internal teams, not just management, so that everyone in fully briefed and can advise with ease. The best way to achieve this is to establish a kick‐off meeting with individuals from the organizing team, venue and the host city, so the plan will be fully aligned with all components from the beginning and throughout.

How do event organizers find reliable local teams and partners to handle security and safety issues? What should they look for and expect in such a partner?
Organizers can ask the venues and host cities directly who they trust and recommend based on previous experience. Then, depending on your program agenda - level of keynotes, headline entertainment, executives, dignitaries, etc. -organizers should check references and ensure that the security they contract has experience with their size of event. Some are more specialized in personal/executive protection or building security vs. events. All of this will drive the type and level of security required for your event.

How should event organizers communicate safety and security information to attendees? How do you do this without creating nervousness, and how do you address increased concerns that attendees might have after headline‐making occurrences?
We live in times of turmoil, and we can't afford not to communicate about safety and security. To avoid nervousness, we recommend infusing creativity in communicating about these matters - like designing an infographic of the emergency plan that is easy to digest and a clear visual display. Another creative way to achieve this is by featuring on the landing page of your event's mobile app a quick link to important information on safety and security. Video is another effective way to draw attention and communicate effectively. As well as this, if staff are strict about requiring authorized name badges for attendees to gain access to the event, the latter will feel comfortable when offered advice and instructions on safety and security from clearly authorized and trained staff. Essentially, by making your event's emergency plan visible, you reassure your audience that there is a plan in place.

What are the most important things to include in a security checklist for an event?
The most important things to include are:
• A full and comprehensive team briefing;
• Important emergency telephone numbers, including local medical services such as emergency rooms, clinics and 24‐hour pharmacies;
• First aid services;
• General emergency procedures, including considerations for people with disabilities;
• What to do in instances of fire, flames or smoke;
• Procedures for dealing with bomb threats and suspicious packages;
• A review of procedures both on- and off‐site, including building evacuation plans;
• Implementation of and, most importantly, communicating all of the above effectively to the right audience.

Prior to joining PCMA, Kelly Coppola spent nine years with Freeman XP and before that ProActive Inc. Her clients have included GE, Maritz, AARP and ESRI.