by Brendan M. Lynch | July 01, 2006

Greg Davis


Greg Davis,
director of the
Cajundome in
Lafayette, La.

After Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans last August, thousands of citizens found themselves trapped at the Superdome and the massive, mile-long Morial Convention Center. And those assembly halls-cum-shelters of last resort became settings for suffering seen on television screens around the world.
    Now, almost a year later, the Coppell, Texas-based International Association of Assembly Managers is formulating guidelines for managers of large public assembly halls that may be called upon to double as makeshift homes, medical facilities, mess halls, and arks in the storm for thousands of people in natural or man-made crises.
    In mid-April, IAAM convened its first-ever European meeting in Vienna. There, shelter planning was of paramount concern for the 30-plus venue managers in attendance. Greg Davis, director of the Cajundome in Lafayette, La., delivered a keynote address based on his experience of sheltering 18,500 Katrina evacuees and housing 7,000 for months afterwards.
    “Venue managers must educate themselves as to the various types of uses, liability exposure, reimbursement of shelter expenses, and the process to recover from shelter operations,” said Davis.
    To help provide this education, IAAM has formed a Shelter Task Force, under Davis, to formulate best practices, to be issued following review by the Department of Homeland Security and the Washington, D.C.-based American Red Cross.
    “IAAM has responded to a critical need in the assembly management industry,” Davis said. “The best-practices guideline is a starting point to position a major facility for a smooth transition to mega-shelter operations.”
    Dialogue, good communication with authorities and thorough planning are of utmost importance, stressed Mark Hamilton, managing director of Scotland-based RockSteady Security, in his address to IAAM’s venue managers. He noted that European authorities intend to use stadiums and arenas as mass inoculation and treatment centers if a bird flu pandemic occurs.
    However, not one arena or stadium manager attending the IAAM event had been consulted by authorities regarding that plan, according to an IAAM spokesperson.