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Can You Handle the #1 Event Emergency? – Attendees are in Danger


When an event emergency happens there’s no time for confusion and indecision. You only have moments to respond. Give the right response by planning ahead. Here are the keys to handling the #1 event emergency.

An Event Emergency Plan You Can Use

This is Part #2 of a three-part series on handling event emergencies. For information on the basics of designing a practical, do-able Emergency Action Plan, please read, Event Emergency – Are You Ready When It All Goes To Hell?

EAP Considerations 1

A Medical Emergency is Not Just a Big Accident

A medical crisis is the most common event emergency. You can’t pretend it will never happen. You can’t wait and figure it out at the time. You can’t “fake it.” Planning for medical emergencies isn’t something that only the biggest producers, planners and organizers do. Anyone, anywhere, any time can fall or have a heart attack. So I can’t make it clearer than this – being prepared is your job.

Every Event Needs an Emergency Action Plan

An Emergency Action Plan is a concise document that outlines the emergency procedures, responses, chain of command and communication procedures for the event. When you develop an EAP, it does take time to prepare for possible medical problems, and there are lots of details. Still, with every event attendee in potential danger, it’s smarter to get ready to protect people and limit risks. There’s one more important reason, too:

The Most Important Reality

You cannot expect or rely on the venue to handle your emergency at your event.

The venue doesn’t do this for you. You should work with them to develop your response plan, but don’t assume their personnel will just magically take over if something bad occurs. It is your responsibility to coordinate the response for your event. Their priority is to protect their own property and risk.

Handle the #1 Event Emergency

Here’s how to handle a medical crisis. Remember, you are responsible for three groups of people – your attendees, event staff and production staff. In Event Emergency – Are You Ready When It All Goes To Hell?, you learned the basics of all EAPs.

The First Thing You Always Do

Based on the venue, the participants, the activities and the length of the event, Job One is to put together your Emergency Organization. These are the people who will coordinate and manage your response. That means:

•  Create a structure and a chain of command. This includes the client, venue, producer/event planner and local police, fire and emergency medical services.

•  Prepare a detailed contact information list.

•  Establish targeted teams in key areas.

•  Determine who contacts the venue and local police, fire and EMS in an emergency happens.

•  Develop a simple venue map showing key exits, Aid Stations and fire alarms.

•  Communicate the key details to everyone who needs to know.

Now let’s focus on the specific steps you need to take to develop the medical portion of your EAP.

Planning For Medical Emergencies

You can anticipate many emergencies by simply gathering medical and emergency contact information from attendees. If you don’t do this, you aren’t alone: About 60% of planners and organizers don’t ask for medical information. Big mistake. Please don’t think you are invading privacy or making registration more complicated. Get this critical data and you are ahead of the game!

Next Steps for a Medical EAP

1.   Do a “what if” analysis for each possible medical emergency.

2.  Identify any attendees, members of the event staff and production staff with known medical conditions that might present an emergency.

3.  Determine how to respond in case they need care.

4.  Prepare a simple response plan based on the venue and the agenda.

In responding to a medical emergency you have two options:

1.  Take the person to medical care.

2.  Bring medical care to the person.

First Aid is a Smart Response

Your best option depends on the situation. For minor injuries or sick people who can walk, you will need centrally located Aid Stations. I can hear the gasps. But think for a moment, did you even have a professional, standard First Aid kit at your last event? Did anyone know where it was? Establish several Aid Stations and mark them clearly. First Aid is the easiest and quickest response to a basic medical emergency.

Think Clear Path

There has to be a clear path to the Aid Station so professional Emergency Medical Services can reach the person, if needed. You should talk with the venue and the local EMS providers before your event to determine where they will park and the path they will take. You will need a clear path for every major location you use in the venue. And, don’t forget signage.

A Medical Emergency at the General Session

Remember, your response depends on the person and the emergency. The key is to plan ahead and execute the response quickly.

Make sure your Medical EAP includes:

•  Who manages the response?

•  Who are the important people to contact?

•  What do you do until the EMS arrives?

–  Move the person to a more comfortable area.

–  Leave the attendee where she/he is and make them as comfortable as possible.

•  Who is responsible for communicating with the rest of the attendees?

•  What are the guidelines for that they say?

The Critical Logistics

•  Where will the EMS arrive?

•  Who will meet them and lead them to the victim?

•  Who will handle any crowd control?

•  If the attendee is taken off-site, who will coordinate with the hospital?

Clearing the Room

This depends on the person and the emergency. If you can move the person to a better location, then you might continue the session. If there is any doubt about the person’s condition, do not move them. In this case you will need to safely evacuate the audience from the room. I’ll give you details for evacuating an area in Part #3 of this series.

If an Attendee Falls and is Injured

Remember your response depends on the person and the emergency.

•  Who manages the response?

•  Who are the important people to contact?

•  What do you do until the EMS arrives?

–  Move the person to the Aid Station or a more comfortable area.

–  Leave the attendee where she/he is and make them as comfortable as possible.

The Critical Logistics

•  Where will the EMS arrive?

•  Who will meet them and lead them to the victim?

•  Who will handle any crowd control?

•  Who will coordinate with the EMS to go to the hospital?

These are just two examples to help you with your planning. It’s important to brainstorm the possible medical emergencies you might face and develop your EAP based on the number of attendees, the venue and your agenda. You can’t just plan for the General Session if you have workshops, dinners and outside events. You’ll need to determine a basic plan for every location.


The emergency isn’t over after you respond, so you will need to do two types of follow-up.

Follow-Up to the Person

•  How are they?

•  Are they receiving the appropriate care?

•  Will they be returning to the event?

•  Who is arranging their transportation?

•  Who will meet them and coordinate any additional response?

•  Who from the client/organizers will speak with them?

Follow-Up with the Team

There should be a de-briefing meeting with everyone involved to evaluate the emergency and learn from it.

•  What happened?

•  How or why did it happen?

•  Did we provide the right response?

•  How can we respond better next time?

•  How do we need to revise the EAP?

Let Everyone Know The Plan

I know this seems obvious, but – your EAP is totally useless if it’s just on your computer or in your briefcase. The right response depends on good communication. Everyone should have a copy of the plan. Have a meeting before the event and get everyone together. Review the plan and explain what to do, whom to contact, and how to manage the attendees or guests. This might be a good time to ask, “Does anyone know CPR?”

Don’t Put Attendees in Danger

Remember, an emergency isn’t just a big accident. Most event emergencies can be anticipated and have a response planned. You simply need to identify the people and resources you need and then decide: If XXX happens, we should do YYY.

The best part of creating a solid EAP is that, once you have one, it is easy to modify the details for each new venue you encounter. Keep the basics the same and your key personnel will always know what to do as you use your plan again over time. They will make fast, smooth decisions that keep your event on track and successful.

Handle the #2 Event Emergency

You learned the basics of all EAPs in Part #1 – Event Emergency – Are You Ready When It All Goes To Hell? The second most common event emergency is fire or evacuation. Handling them presents a very different set of challenges. You’ll learn how to plan for these emergencies in Part #3 of this series – How To Plan For An Event Evacuation – Move People Safely

If you are concerned about your event security let’s spend 15 minutes talking about your next project or challenge. Just click on CONTACT US or send an email to and get in touch.


Event EmergencyAre You Ready When It All Goes To Hell?

How To Plan For An Event Evacuation – Move People Safely

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About the Author
Andy Johnston is a multi-faceted communication professional who has a comfortable way of working with people. Andy is an Emmy Award winning communicator known for his energy, humor, creativity and his unique ability to discover the key results that must be generated – and then to develop ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. He has broad experience in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing, and events. One of the things Andy says often is, “How can we make it better?”
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