6 Steps to a Safe Meeting During Natural Disasters – What every On-Site Meeting Manager Should Know

Tidal Wave

Written by Lori Gershaw

Lori Gershaw started her career in the event industry in 1989 as an Independent Meeting Planner and grew her business into a full-service meeting planning company.   In 2003 she founded her second company, GCG Event Partners, a nationwide network of Independent Meeting Planners and On-Site Meeting Managers.

June 3, 2013

Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, fires…when a natural disaster hits while you’re on-site at your event, know what to do.  You’re the On-Site Manager.  You’re the one people will come to (whether it makes sense or not) in the case of an emergency.  You are the voice of reason.  People tend to wait for someone to tell them what to do and you’re that person.  Take charge!

  1. Can your guests get out in a hurry if they have to?  Upon arrival at the venue, check all the exits to your meeting space and make sure they are unlocked and unblocked.  This should include all exits leading to the back of the house as well.  If you are placing staging or other decorations in front of a doorway, be sure to leave space large enough for an aisle behind so people could still use that exit in an emergency.  I don’t care how silly you sound arguing with the set-up staff, make sure your exits are clear!
  2. Where are you?  Know what natural disasters are typical for your meeting location.  Learn what precautions should be taken and what the response should be.  Ask your venue contact what the procedure is in the case of just such an emergency.
  3. Tour your venue.  Know where the emergency exits are.  And know where there is an alternative in case the nearest exit is unsafe during the emergency.
  4. When disaster strikes.  Take charge.  Speak with purpose and conviction.  This is not a time for joking or for being cavalier.  Don’t panic, but be serious.  Clearly direct your guests as to what to do.  Even if it means interrupting the speaker and making an announcement.  “It has been confirmed that there is a fire in the building. We must evacuate the building.  Please walk calmly to the stairwell located to the left of our meeting room and exit the building.”  You will be surprised, despite loud speaker announcements, how many people will just sit there and do nothing, believing nothing bad will happen to them.
  5. Save yourself!  Lead by example and follow your own directions.  Grab your essential files if they are handy and it is safe to do so.  If you collected money on-site, take that with you for safe keeping.  If you have an attendance list, use that to verify that all your guests made it to safety.
  6. Be in touch with emergency personnel or the venue manager (when it is safe to do so) to get updated information.  Keep your guests informed and instruct them accordingly.

Being safe and keeping your guests safe while on-site is THE NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT JOB YOU HAVE.  Although the chances are slim you’ll ever encounter a natural disaster while on-site at a meeting, if it happens, you want to have a plan.  This is a life and death matter.  It should not be taken lightly and absolutely should not be overlooked.  Wishing you safe meetings!

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