Traveling is a dangerous game. A stranger in a strange land may often encounter hazards along the way. That's why the “it's not going to happen to me” syndrome has no place in meeting planning. Thinking “it can absolutely happen to me or someone in my group” is more like it.
Risks cannot be entirely eliminated. But by making safety and security an integral part of the planning process, organizations can dramatically lower the probability. One way to help protect your attendees when traveling to areas where tourists are targets is to provide them with a list of simple precautions. Tell them to:
Be aware of those around them. Remain alert at all times, especially in crowded areas. Thieves often operate in pairs. One may bump you while the other picks your pocket. Try to avoid carrying valuables in baggage that can be easily snatched, snipped, or removed without your knowledge.
Stay in well-lit areas. Avoid unlit driveways and other shadowy places. When possible, ride rather than walk, particularly at night. If the streets around your hotel are deserted, take a taxi or shuttle bus, even if your destination is within easy walking distance.
Keep a low profile. Do not draw attention to yourself by ostentatious dress and displays of wealth. Stick with plain clothes. Don't wear your badge or carry your meeting materials with you outside your hotel. Outsiders are prime targets for thieves. As much as possible, try to look as though you belong.
Adhere to a “buddy” system. If you know someone is headed for the same destination you are, see if you can tag along. Few travelers become victims when they are in the company of others. Be sure to walk with another person, particularly at night.
When inspecting a site for fire safety, Carol Krugman looks at every angle. Not only does she have the director of security show her the fire exits and the facility's evacuation plan, but she visits the closest hospital or emergency room as well. She notes the most direct route, how long it takes, and the admission procedure.
“There's no such thing as being too careful,” says Krugman, CMP, CMM, president, Krugman Group International, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-basedmeeting and incentive planning company.
When considering a venue, ask the following fire-safety questions. The local fire department can be a useful resource for answers, and can help evaluate a facility's fire preparedness.
Are there fire sprinkler systems, and smoke and fire detectors in guest rooms and meeting rooms? Are the smoke detectors hard-wired to a central station or directly to the fire department?
Is there a fire alarm system to alert attendees? Does it sound automatically?
What action does the facility's staff take when the alarm sounds? Do they follow an established standard operating emergency procedure?
Are exit doors and routes clearly labeled, and are exit signs illuminated? Is there an adequate number of emergency exits? Check with the local fire department.
Is there emergency lighting?
Are fire extinguishers, fire hose valves, and manual fire alarm pulls easily accessible?
Are corridors, exit doorways, and exit stairways unobstructed? Are exit doors unlocked?
Are clear emergency instructions posted in each guest room?
How are guests with disabilities evacuated?
Is the facility subject to a fire code? Which one? Are any fire-safety violations related to safety inspections outstanding or uncorrected? Double check with the local fire department.
The National Fire Protection Association has compiled its own hotel fire safety checklist. To obtain a copy, contact Albert B. Sears Jr., assistant vice president, meetings, NFPA at email@example.com.
Check out these Web sites for more security-related topics.
This is an informative Web site of the consulting firm Event & Meeting Security Services.
A U.S. Department of State Web site that includes travel warnings and consular information sheets with the locations of U.S. embassies, and information on crime, security, and political disturbances overseas.
This is the Web site of the American Society for Industrial Security. It includes articles from Security Management magazine as well as information on its seminars on topics such as fire protection and hiring the best security people.
The Internet site for the Federal Aviation Administration includes information on safety and security.
This site includes informative airline safety tips.
The Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on health and medical information for travelers.
EIBTM has a Safety Advisory Center?
The issue of security was a hot topic during this year's EIBTM, May 29 through 31. Formerly the Security Clinic, EIBTM's Safety Advisory Clinic began in 1997 in response to an increasing number of safety questions. This year's center was staffed by Eric Rymer of The Right Solution, a UK-based consulting firm, and David Reilly of UK-based International Conference Consultants.
Prepare for the worst. Event cancellation coverage will protect you when circumstances make it necessary to cancel, postpone, or interrupt an event. Chubb Group Insurance Co.'s Special Events Risk Management Handbook is available by calling (908) 903-2000.
What should you look for when choosing a security expert?
Find someone with an understanding of the meetings and incentives industry. So says Richard Werth, CPP, president of Franklin, Tenn.-based Event & Meeting Security Services, an international consulting firm specializing in security for events, meetings and travel. “Yes, it is possible to hire a retired law enforcer. But odds are this person will not clearly understand your objectives. Someone experienced in the meetings industry will,” he says.
Be sure to get a written proposal, as well as a list of references, to find out what he or she has brought to past events.
Find out what education and certification the person has. Werth says one of the best certifications in the field is Certified Protection Professional, which is given by the American Society for Industrial Security.
Plan on spending $800 to $1,200 per day for 24-hour coverage on site by a qualified professional.
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