When you’ve got to go

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Seasoned conference goers have their own evacuation strategies for when a dull keynote shows no signs of stopping or a PowerPoint Presentation gets too much – and, yes, some involve lavatories.

In any event they usually involve a bit of miming and a good deal of bravado.

My favourite delegate dumbshows are the, ‘Damn, I really have to take this call!' the, ‘Hang on, I’m in the wrong room!’ and - for when things get really desperate - the, ‘Ooof, those scallops! Gotta  go…!’

We’ve all searched for the nearest available exit when an hour of stupefying boredom threatens, but I wonder how easily we could find it in an emergency situation, when there's a real trace of panic in the air.

Most events start with a cursory health and safety announcement about exit points and not using lifts in case of a fire, but when it comes to a mass evacuation, the devil, it turns out, is in the detail.

That’s according to Pinkerton -  a ‘global provider of corporate risk management services’ - which asserts that planners are failing to get the basics right when it comes to delegate safety.

“Perhaps the biggest mistake that an event organiser can make is to overlook the need for an effective evacuation plan – a surprisingly common error across all sectors,” says Weynand Haitjema, Pinkerton’s Region Managing Director for EMEA. He adds: “An evacuation strategy, including modes of transport, exits and, of course, back-up plans, should be one of the first elements to be established and continually re-evaluated until the event is concluded. What if a coach breaks down or disorder breaks out which blocks the main exit route from a venue?”

One blithely imagines this sort of thing is being taken care of, but for most event goers that’s a matter of blind faith. We assume, should something serious happen, that there’s a plan to get us to safety as quickly as possible, but one wonders how thoroughly tested is the plan, or if there’s a plan b. Perhaps we should all take a bit more personal responsibility and familiarise ourselves with a venue’s exit points before an event starts and not just after the fifth PowerPoint of the day.

James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.

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