From profits to press to badly-need infrastructure projects, major events can bring any number of lasting benefits to organizers and host sites. Conversely, the risks of running a major event are acute and variegated. So too are the penalties for botching it: public opprobrium, reputational damage, possibly even legal challenge and regulatory blowback. For organizers, effective all-hazards planning is the only solution to help mitigate topline risk and keep attendees safe. But with so many variables involved in major-event management, it’s easy to ask, how to get started?
Well, if you’re planning a major event, you need to start early and coordinate with all the relevant stakeholders; those include organizers, sponsors, public officials, and emergency response agencies. Understanding your legal obligations is also important. And in most jurisdictions, stakeholders must produce major-event emergency action plans (EAP), often in close coordination with the relevant emergency response agency, to ensure attendees stay safe and healthy; also, of note, many jurisdictions mandate on-site emergency medical services as part of the emergency action planning effort. Here are the twin goals of the EAP:
- Identify all potential emergency hazards
- Mitigate the risk (to life and property) posed by those hazards
What of the EAP itself? Like EAPs for businesses, a major-event plan will ensure timely notification, warning, and evacuation in the event of an emergency. To do so, the major-event plan must be highly customized to the location and venue in question. Indeed, stakeholders err gravely in simply copying existing EAPs, though the following core elements are common to most major-event emergency action plans:
- An organization chart laying out contacts to notify in the case of an emergency
- Clear instructions and procedures on how to notify those individuals
- A list of responsibilities for emergency tasks assigned to specific roles, i.e. who is responsible for identifying, evaluating, classifying, then officially declaring an emergency under pre-determined conditions
Of course, an effective EAP, developed with input from all major stakeholders will offer far more than a mere list of roles, responsibilities, and tasks. For starters, the EAP has to provide a clear and concise blueprint for how major-event attendees should react in the face of an emergency. To do so, though, planners must first uncover all of the key vulnerabilities of the event site to natural, manmade, and event-generated emergencies. Not only does the vulnerability assessment get fed to emergency crew, it also informs the venue site plan (published in the EAP), which illustrates locations of all commercial services, first aid, assembly areas, vehicle access for emergency vehicles, etc. The list of detailed EAP annexes is also determined by the site’s unique vulnerabilities; those action plans could include active shooter, bomb threat, civil disturbance, emergency weather, fire, hazardous materials, etc.
Operationalizing the EAP takes time and effort as well, not to mention provisioning relevant crew with the necessary communications systems to stay in touch during the event. Many major events centralize relevant activities in emergency operations and resource centers with emergency off-site centers selected as well. But the key element(s) to ensuring EAP success is conducting routine trainings in the run-up to the event and revising the plan based on those training. To learn other major-event management best practices, download our all-hazards planning guide to effective major event management.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency: Special Event Emergency Action Plan Guide