“Shelter in place.” Since I don’t watch crime dramas or sci-fi thrillers, it’s not a phrase I’d heard before.
Not until Friday, April 19, when the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, put the advisory in place for residents of Boston, Watertown, and other adjacent communities. It was the morning after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of two brothers suspected of carrying out the bombings at the Boston Marathon, had survived a shoot-out with police in Watertown. He was a dangerous criminal, on the loose, just four days after the bombings on April 15, when Patriots’ Day and the Boston Marathon (at 117 years, the world’s oldest) were horribly disrupted.
With Dzhokhar on the run, residents of those cities were told to stay home, lock their doors, and not to open them to anyone but properly identified law enforcement. People in Boston that day described it as a veritable ghost town.
I bring up the situation because unlike other major catastrophes that have prevented meeting attendees from getting to a conference this was a case in which local attendees, and those who service meetings, could not get to the conference venues. Meetings in Boston and Cambridge were in progress, attendees and exhibitors already at their hotels. But on that Friday, some of meeting activities had to be curtailed. Security was heightened.
We ran two accounts of meetings that navigated that crazy week, one on the Ambulatory Surgical Center Association and another medical meeting managed by Smith Bucklin. Those meeting planners and their teams are heroes. They kept their calm and went on with business under the most strenuous of circumstances. They are to be commended, as are the hotels and venues that hosted them.
Special commendation goes to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. Its executive director, James E. Rooney, kept the press and public updated every step of the way. The Hynes Convention Center, one of several the MCCA runs, is just blocks away from the scene of the bombing on the race route on Boylston Street, a hub of shopping, attractions, and businesses, where both Prudential and John Hancock are headquartered.
Rooney’s statements were specific and matter-of-fact, giving direction to either stay put or not to come to work; alerting people while trying to maintain normalcy as much as possible.
Unfortunately, these disasters come far more frequently than in the past. Since 9/11, first responders have become our national heroes. That’s why it’s more important than ever for organizers of large, outdoor events, and even those who plan “safer” indoor conferences, be trained in emergency procedures and work with venues to ensure the best possible outcomes for those entrusted to your care. Read some good advice on clauses and creating event crisis plans from attorney and columnist James Goldberg.