Writing an Actionable Safety Plan and Emergency Planning for Events and Experiential Tours Part 1 in a 2 part series

Guest post by Doug Bruce, Freelance Event Producer, Safety Advisor and a Master’s in Emergency Management candidate.

Writing an Actionable Safety Plan and Emergency Planning for Events and Experiential Tours Part 1 in a 2 part series

Writing an Actionable Safety Plan and Emergency Planning for Events

 Wait! Before you read the word “safety” and scroll away cringing, understand that safety culture is awesome.  It is an enabling force to do clever things and not the fun-limiting scapegoat it is often labeled.  Safety is not OSHA, Safety is not only litigation-avoidance, But It is also a team goal that puts life safety first.

 

What is Safety Planning?

Brands want their activations to be bigger, better, and bolder.  Whatever the environment: a mountainside, a convention center, a music festival, an air show, or on main street: event safety plans help eliminate risk and guide safe events.  In the experiential marketing realm, events vary as wide as the products and brands we serve.  So does the risk we face.  Effective safety management planning allows us to create the experiences agencies and consumers love by designing out the hazards that pose the biggest risk.  Plans help build a framework for safety culture. 

 

Safety planning is also not emergency planning – but that is part of the big picture (we will cover that in the next post).  Both start with assessing risk and managing safety, but emergency plans consider contingencies.  The most important aspect is that we must think about what could go wrong and plan around it. 

 

The best events are the ones that are enjoyable, leave a memorable brand impression, and are designed in a way that keeps everyone safe – sometimes without you even knowing it!  This is achieved by active engagement, crowd movement design, carefully engineered elements, and effective risk mitigation. 

 

Start with your Stakeholders

Start by considering who is involved in your events.  This means stakeholders include brands, agencies, venues, field teams, consumers, vendors, partners, municipalities and others.  Since everyone is a stakeholder, everyone has a responsibility for safety. 

 

If your activation is part of a larger event, you should know how you fit into their planning and communication.  As an example, if a racetrack has an emergency but no way of communicating it to the activations in the fan zones, that’s a failure in safety planning and communication.  And if your event could need special resources like security, off-duty police, a medic/ambulance standing by, road closures, special equipment or vendors, invite them to be a part of your planning too.  The more you open your door, the better the communication will be and thus the better the product or experience.  Great staffing matters, as do the vendors with whom you partner.  As the phrase goes, “cheap isn’t good and good isn’t cheap.”  Consider giving even your temporary staff and vendors as much information as you can about safety plans so that they can make informed decisions with your policies in mind.

 

Do a Risk Assessment

We do risk assessments subconsciously all day long.  An immensely important step in developing an event is determining what might be your biggest problems and how you can overcome them.  What challenges might you encounter?  What are the primary activities taking place at your event?  What hazards are present and how will you manage them?  What emergencies seem the most reasonably foreseeable?  What are you doing and how are you going to do it?   Who would be affected by any such hazard, how severe would it be, and how likely?  Your insurance broker may have additional resources to help you identify and eliminate common problems.  Third-party advisors can add an additional layer of insight through consultation.

 

 

Time and Place

The time and place matter just as much as the content of the event.  This encompasses not only the event location but the challenges of getting logistics to and from, the season, environmental factors, weather, terrain, and more.  Sure, you could route a marketing tour through Phoenix in the middle of the summer heat, but why not wait until the fall when the climate is more comfortable?  A risk assessment and safety plan can help you justify the time and place of your choosing.  Be sure to consider your consumer profile and what their behavior, needs, and expectations are.

 

Weather is a huge location factor!  We can’t control the weather, but we have control over how we plan for it and when we take action.  At the Event Safety Alliances’ Severe Weather Summit, meteorologists explain why using your phone is not an effective weather strategy for forecasting what might happen.  However, talking to a professional meteorologist through a private service is a fantastic resource, especially when you’re using big temporary structures, life safety is on the line, and the weather could change fast.

 

 

Toolbox Talks

It doesn’t take long at the beginning of load in or during your brand ambassador training to add in some key messaging about safety in your operations.  Consider mentioning things like:

  • the nearest exits and emergency alerts nearby safety tools like fire extinguishers or first aid kits
  • who is trained to use them, or how to use such assets
  • incident reporting and work stop procedures
  • an outside emergency meeting place, etc. 

A brand ambassador knowing where an AED is because they were told or because they were situationally aware might be a life-saving difference.  Toolbox talks are an opportunity to cover work objectives, but they can also an opportunity for team leaders to praise safe and careful work done by their colleagues.   Safety culture doesn’t have to be formal but should be taken seriously at every level of an organization.  We often say we care about safety, but this is one of the ways we show it.

 

 

 The Most Important Factor

People are the most important part of any event, and that is why life safety must come first.  Empowering everyone to be able to stop work or raise a concern free from punishment or retaliation is essential.  Giving everyone buy-in is part of how you build a safety culture and you take it from being a binder on the shelf or seen as a governing force to something that enables amazing event activations through collaboration.

 

Finally, safety planning is more than high viz vests, traffic cones, and fire extinguishers.  It’s thinking through what we are trying to accomplish and why in order to give our clients and consumers the best impression possible.  Good safety culture is not just doing a pre-trip inspection on a vehicle because the D.O.T. says we “have to,” it’s wanting to know that your gear is in proper working order and understanding the brand reputation and lives that might be at stake if things go wrong.  Great safety culture is a shared approach to problem-solving and not cutting corners to get there. 

 

In Part II of this series, we will talk about emergency planning and contingencies to consider. 

 

 

Additional Resources

OSHA actually requires risk assessment and site planning through a job hazard analysis: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3071.pdf

 

Event Safety Alliance

The ESA is a GREAT resource for event producers of any kind.  The Event Safety Guide is a fantastic book and available online and in paperback.  They also hold annual summits covering all aspects of event safety, weather, crowd management, and more. https://www.eventsafetyalliance.org

 

 

 

About the guest author:

Doug Bruce has been producing events and brand activations for over ten years.  He is a Freelance Event Producer, Safety Advisor and a Master’s in Emergency Management candidate.  Doug has worked on high profile brand activations, tours, national relays, music festivals, concerts, gaming events, Film/TV production, and more across the United States as well as in the U.K, Asia, and the Middle East. Find Doug on Linkedin here:  www.dougbruceproductions.com

 

 

Additional Resources:

 

Ready.Gov

FEMA has a wide range of easy to use, business contingency and resilience planning tools

 

What Three Words

An incredible, grid and simple word location tool.  Finding and exact 10x10 area has never been easier.  This was developed by a paramedic who had trouble finding people at events.

https://what3words.com

 

NFPA 1600: Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management

https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=1600

 

NFPA 101:  Life Safety Code

https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=101

 

Event Safety Alliance

The ESA is a GREAT resource for event producers of any kind.  The Event Safety Guide is a fantastic book and available online and in paperback.  They also hold annual summits covering all aspects of event safety, weather, crowd management, and more. https://www.eventsafetyalliance.org