Medical emergencies will happen at meetings. Often the difference between life and death may be seconds or minutes. Relying on your meeting staff or calling "911" is not the only answer since few meeting venues are adequately trained or prepared and emergency medical support (EMS) response times and capabilities vary greatly venue to venue and destination to destination. With the expanse of many of today's mega-meeting places or at a resort golf course it can take more than 5 minutes to simply traverse them once EMS is on the scene.

To date the preparations for and response to medical emergencies at meetings has not been at the forefront of the meetings industry's agenda. Yet it is an excellent opportunity to make this a critical issue for the advancement of our profession as well as the enrichment of meeting experiences.

What follows is a basic checklist to begin the process. When medical emergencies occur we know we can't save everyone. But everyone deserves the best possible chance to be saved. These actions will help.

Your organization is well on the way to effectively manage medical emergencies at your meetings if:

__The preparation for and management of medical emergencies is a "Mission Critical" function for meetings of all sizes. You promote and reward a medical emergency readiness mindset as a core professional competency.

__Staff members' skills are current. Employees are annually trained at a minimum up to the current standards of cardiac pulmonary resuscitation/automated external defibrillation (CPR/AED).

__A detailed venue and transport specific medical emergency preparedness and response plan has been developed. For all locations and all travel during your meeting-especially for off-site excursions.

__Medical emergencies are prepared for according to the demographics of the membership: What's the age range? Do you have any individuals or groups who have made you aware of pre-existing medical conditions and special needs? Will there be circumstances, such as weather or special activities that might increase the odds of illnesses or injuries?

__The medical emergency preparedness and response plan has been reviewed and approved by meetings-specific medical emergency management specialists.

__A medical emergency response team leader and support staff have been designated. The management and activities of the program are part of the group's performance evaluation and group members are afforded special recognition by your organization for their responsibilities. The leader is in close contact with a meetings-specific specialist for ongoing support and quality assurance.

__Medical emergency plan activation drills are frequent. You and your staff routinely engage in drills at your headquarters' offices and at your meeting site with your facility staff and EMS personnel.

__Meetings are held in facilities with proven medical emergency capabilities. Facility personnel have provided evidence that their staffs, their communities' EMS systems, and the designated medical facilities are capable of performing at or above current standards of medical emergency care.

__Pre-con meeting agendas include addressing how medical emergencies will be managed. Protocols address who will do what, when, where, and how among your staff, the meeting site staff, and EMS personnel at all facilities and during all transportation.

__Staff members know how to respond to emergencies. They can rapidly recognize medical emergencies and can rapidly activate the on-site medical emergency response and local EMS systems at all locations and on all transportation routes throughout your event.

___Information about the designated medical emergency care facilities and professionals is provided to staff, attendees, participants, and other stakeholders. Instructional signage is placed in many locations throughout each facility and instructions on what to do in case of an emergency are announced at each session. Simply listing "Medical Emergencies" buried someplace in the meeting program is not a best practice.

__Communications and rapid activation systems are tested daily to validate their performance. If they are not performing, provisions are made and all staff and attendees are notified. For example, many cell phones do not work with Enhanced 911 systems. Attempting to call 911 on a cell phone will not identify the caller's location or EMS personnel may arrive with few people at the facility being aware they have been called.

__Emergency transportation arrangements are made at least six weeks before the meeting. The rapid activation of long-distance MedEvac transport of attendees, participants, or staff is arranged, and provisions are in place for the ingress and egress of rotorcraft. Fixed wing; ground; and, if relevant, watercraft MedEvac are all in place as well.

__Post-emergency continuity protocols are in place. Staff members are designated to manage the needs of people who have become ill or injured or have died. This may include communicating with family members or significant others and also making transportation arrangements with all meeting, housing, and medical facilities to ensure that continuity is maintained.

__Backup systems, people, and technology are in all aspects of your medical emergency response plans.

___Risk management, legal, and insurance specialists are actively involved. Efforts are made to manage, transfer, and insure against medical emergency risks in all aspects of medical emergency preparedness and performance.

___Meetings-specific experts are retained to advise, train, and assist in the preparation for and ongoing management of medical emergencies.

For more information on SafeMeetings or on the international AED program registry it's developing, call (330) 856-2246 or e-mail 4378 Victoria SE, Warren, OH 44484 USA