Following a survey of its members’ emergency procedures, the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) recently issued a 55-page preliminary white paper on this timely subject.

The paper is the product of IACC’s recently formed Emergency Procedures Task Force, which was charged with polling members about their practices in four critical areas: health emergencies, natural disasters, facility emergencies, and deliberate disruption/acts. The survey unearthed a number of best practices and ways to handle emergencies, but it also pointed up a surprising truth: "We assumed all our members had written safety procedures," says Steve Smith, director of communications. "But one of the things we discovered is that they don’t."

The white paper, published as a work in progress, is organized according to the four critical areas and packed with suggestions. It includes an introductory general practices section that covers lines of authority, communications, training, and response plans.

In addition, IACC’s board of directors recently added the following recommendation to its other guidelines: "All IACC conference centers should have a written Emergency Procedures plan."

The emergency plan guideline was one of a number of new IACC standards adopted in January. Others include:

-A minimum standard requiring at least 60 percent of all meeting space to be set up with ergonomic seating

-Similar rules governing the design of writing surfaces

-A requirement that conference centers offer package plans (CMPs’) including conference rooms, sleeping rooms (for residential facilities), three meals, continuous refreshment service, conference services, and basic audiovisual services.

-A recommendation that members keep up with guideline changes