By Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
Events are as common in the nonprofit industry as annual campaigns and executive directors. What comes to mind when you think of events? Most people think of parties, galas and fundraising, but nonprofit events can expand to include festivals, concerts, chef competitions and more. Regardless of the type of event your association hosts, there are inherent risks that savvy leaders should anticipate and mitigate.
You know that the most obvious hazard of any project is the financial risk, so it is important to delve deep into any event concept to define the anticipated costs before committing. Then you need to evaluate the revenue potential of the project to determine if you will be financially successful.
We once had a client who set their ticket price for an event before they had collected all the price quotes from suppliers. After selecting the menu and compiling the full list of expenses, they had set themselves up for a substantial loss on the project before they had even begun. Lesson learned: allow ample time to research and create a full budget to evaluate your fundraiser.
When I first started in events, I was unaware of the term Force Majeure; all these years later, I certainly can’t say that anymore. Over the recent years, we’ve watched in horror as stages collapsed, bombs exploded, and guns resulted in the death of concertgoers. And of course, the pandemic has changed the course of events since March 2020 and into the foreseeable future.
But the risks don’t stop there. There are catastrophes of pyrotechnics gone wrong or poor crowd management that have resulted in injury and death. And while your annual fundraiser would likely never reach this level of danger, it is important for all event organizers to think through the potential risks and contingencies to create a safety plan for events.
Identifying the Risks
Whether indoors or out, there is a myriad of potential problems that your event could encounter. To help you start thinking about what type of scenarios you might encounter, here is a list of some potential situations (in no particular order):
- Medical Emergency
- Health Scare of a Guest
- Onsite Injury
- Inclement Weather
- Extreme Heat
- Extreme Cold
- Venue Management
- Entries and Exits
- Electrical/Internet/Utility Complications
- Other Dangers
- Food and Beverage
- Food Poisoning
- Alcohol Poisoning
- Difficult People
- Intoxicated Guest
- Angered Guest
- Scam/Con Artists
- Covid-19 Protocols
- Crowd Control/Management
- More Extreme Issues
- Active Shooter
The most effective emergency protective planning starts from the beginning. It is important to allow time to review your safety plan for each item on the checklist that could affect the event. You will want to work with your team, including venue and security personnel, to confirm that there is a plan in place for every potential hazard you may encounter. Preparedness means far fewer surprises can occur that adversely affect the event.
Covid Planning Guidelines
As a result of the pandemic, event organizers must now consider a full-scale plan for the protection of their guests in light of the dangers of Covid-19. Most venues have limits and policies that must be adhered to in their building or on their properties, but once inside the rented event space, the host organization must also have a policy for events held within the establishments.
Event planners have to figure out how to collect proof of vaccinations without breaking HIPPA regulations while still protecting the safe transfer of personal data from attendees during the registration process. You could view proof of vaccination at the door, but this is likely to delay entry and require additional staffing to manage the potential bottlenecks.
It is also wise to think about how you will enforce your event policy. Will you need additional volunteers to police the room? Will you want additional security guards at the registration desk to ensure that no incidents arise at check-in?
There are programs on the market that will help you collect the vaccination records. Some charge a fee per attendee but be sure to check with your state health department to confirm if your state has a digital vaccine verification system that you can access or utilize. It could be a great cost-savings for your organization.
Other Important Safety Tips
-Be sure to secure the contact information of each guest during the registration and/or check-in process. Should you need to follow up for any reason, it is becoming more and more important in this age of contact tracing that we easily and clearly know how to contact the attendees.
-Establish a communication plan for each potential danger so that you know the chain of command and who will be notified in the case of an emergency. The next step requires that you confirm how guests will also be notified of any problems.
-Once your Safety Plan is created, be sure to train all staff and volunteers on the details of the plan and provide team leaders with a copy of the plan. The very best plan is useless if it is not shared with the team to adequately prepare for potential dangers.
-Always have a first-aid kit on hand for immediate care of minor injuries.
-Have a specially trained food service representative who can properly review and verify the food prep procedures for the event. Ensure that proper temperatures, food transport and food handling protocols are being followed for the safety of your guests. You will want to have your food and beverage team demonstrate meticulous hygiene standards and avoid any cross-contamination of items used in the food and beverage preparation.
-Create a traffic control plan to manage and guide people on how to safely exit your event.
-Create a safety checklist and have the appropriate team members review and sign-off that they were properly trained and/or received the safety information.
-Create a master contact list of management and safety control teams so all the key players can easily be identified and reached in case of an emergency.
We hope that you never have to deal with any of the issues in this article, but by working through these scenarios in advance, you will be able to mitigate the outcomes for the sake of your guests and your charity organization.