Event safety protocols have always been a priority for event marketers. But in the past couple of years, incidents involving active shooters have presented a new, sobering reality for marketers responsible for planning group gatherings. This heightened threat has led to new training and updated event safety plans to ensure that staff, clients and attendees are not only safer on-site, but that they feel safe, too.
As expected, much of the work on this issue is taking place behind the scenes. We tapped three agency partners to understand what they’re hearing from clients, the best practices they’ve implemented and the technologies that are supporting their efforts.
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EVENT SAFETY TECHNOLOGY
Momentum recently implemented a technological upgrade to its critical event management plan and instituted a robust training program. The agency’s three-pronged event safety planning process now includes mandatory employee training, a customized production safety plan and a technology component added in August, in partnership with safety software provider Everbridge.
“It was an investment we wanted to make in the protection and safety of our people, and it felt like the right thing to do to talk about it in the marketplace,” says Donnalyn Smith, president-North America, at Momentum Worldwide.
The first section of Momentum’s plan (mandatory employee training) now includes new programs for dealing with an active shooter as well as crowd management control training. Momentum uses a course offered by FEMA to train employees specifically on the active shooter component. The course provides actions to take when confronting such a situation, how to respond to law enforcement officials, how to prevent and prepare for a potential incident and managing the event’s consequences.
The second section focuses on production safety, which consists of a customized written plan for each event that assesses risk and provides safety information for all exposure areas and also outlines emergency meetings spots, site layouts and an evacuation strategy.
The software component is a platform tied to a geo-targeted app that tracks employees’ locations, monitors threats in the area and sends staffers notifications when a high-risk event occurs. The app is used by all Momentum employees and any clients who plan to be on-site and choose to opt in. A dashboard tracks all the “assets,” or employees, and monitors threats in real time back at Momentum’s IT department.
COLLABORATION AND COMMUNICATION
For the first time in 14 years, The Marketing Arm earlier this year updated its event safety plan, taking a closer look at its crisis management protocols to reflect current threats. One major change: the inclusion of an entire active shooter training section. TMA worked directly with the Department of Homeland Security to understand what protocols are recommended.
“They were very open and transparent with their rules of engagement, how to go about it and how to talk about it. It literally gets down to the ‘what do you do’ as a consumer or staffer on-site,” says Alison Delzell, svp-experience at The Marketing Arm. “Sometimes we’re activating in the middle of a music festival with not a building around us. What do you do then? So, we have taken what Homeland Security gave us, the base of what we’re going with, and then added in our own expertise.”
When deciding on the location of its events, TMA discusses the venue’s or event organizer’s event safety protocols and attempts to mesh the two plans together. In the case of smaller venues, for which no protocols have been put in place, the agency will implement its own plan.
“There are times where we’re going to a little local farmer’s market because we’re trying to get to somebody at a grassroots level. And at that point, there really is no such protocol. So, we bring in our own,” Delzell says.
Four years ago, Mirrored Media hired Dustin Burt, owner and managing partner of Superior Protection Consultants, to supplement the agency’s security measures. Since Mirrored frequently produces music events and collaborates with celebrities, the benefit of having a consultant is twofold.
“We have to come up with a safety plan for our guests and for the general public, as well as a safety plan for any talent and celebrities that may be there. It’s being able to have a security consultant that can look at both plans simultaneously and know how they can interact,” says Justin Lefkovitch, founder and ceo of Mirrored Media. Moreover, he says, a consultant will look at the totality of the safety plan, including entry and exit points, ingress and egress for fire safety, an active shooter plan, training staff, adding bag checks, metal detectors, and assessing risk.
According to Burt, communication and collaboration between the various parties, including local police departments and other safety agencies, is paramount.
“Being able to have that line of open communication between everybody plays a huge role,” he says. “It sounds simple, but 90 percent of what we do is just communicating between all the departments that have to work together, which in return will promote a bigger, healthier and safer environment, but also a fun event.”
Mirrored has noticed—and happily welcomed—a shift in perception toward added security measures.
“It’s gone from a nuisance to a benefit,” Lefkovitch says. “We’re seeing a positive shift both from our clients, in their willingness to pay for it and understand why we’re putting such an emphasis on it, as well as from the guests. Now, when you say, ‘If you’re going to have a bag over this size it needs to be clear,’ people say, OK, and they plan accordingly.”
This means sending out additional communications to attendees ahead of the event to set their expectations (for instance, the size of the bag they may carry in) and make them aware of the added safety measures in order to expedite the process on-site. And in that way, there’s safety in numbers.