What is event safety signage? First and foremost, let’s start with the basics. What is a sign? A sign is something that suggests the presence of a fact, condition, or quality not immediately evident; an indication an action or gesture used to convey an idea, desire, information, or command. Additionally, it can be a board or placard displayed in a place to advertise or convey information or direction, or a conventional figure or device that stands for a word, phrase or operation. I think we now have a firm understanding… like we didn’t before!
To some extent, signs are everywhere. They inform us, they sell to us, they provide directions and warn us of potential or real dangers. Signs can be broken down into numerous categories, for the sake of this blog I will limit it to 5: informative (this tree is a “xyz type”), directional (“Enter Here,” “Exit Only”), way-finding (“Fantasyland,” “Park/Event Exit”), instructional (“No Smoking Please,” “Do Not Feed the Animals”), and warnings (innocuous, “You may get wet” to life and death warnings, “High Voltage”).
Event, tourism, and attraction (ETA) environments are no different than any other environment when it comes to the use and needs of signage. ETA environments are saturated with signs and other visual forms of communications. It could be argued that such an abundance of signs in these environments results in the signs being ignored, becoming visual background noise. However, when done correctly, the constant instruction provided through signage can produce an environment that reflects specific rules and associations that in turn promotes more predictable behaviors.
Considering the nature of ETA environments (often temporary) and the relationship with invitees (patrons) on controlled premises, the goal of an ETA’s planner should be to develop sign packages that properly inform, direct, instruct and warn patrons regarding the intended use of the external and internal environment and available experiences offered. ETA organizers and planners typically have the basics down: food and beverage locations, restrooms, parking, cash machines, VIP areas, and way-finding. However, many of the critical signs often get overlooked.
Unfortunately, the most often overlooked or underdeveloped sign is a warning sign—also the most critical. Many confuse a “warning” sign with that of an instructional/informational sign. There is a significant difference between warnings and instructional/informational signs. A warning is an intimation, threat, or sign of impending danger or evil; advice to beware, as of a person or thing. We should use warnings to advise patrons and staff of harm and the intended consequences of said harm. This practice is often only achieved after an incident due to failed or inadequate policies/procedures to identify and/or eliminate/mitigate known and foreseeable hazards.
There is good news though! There is a science to developing and implementing signage—one that the ETA industry can easily follow and implement. Standards exist within industry that address the formats, colors, and symbols for safety signs used in environmental and facility applications, product applications, and accident prevention tags/tape. ANSI Z535 is a primary example of a standards writing body that develops such practices. It is important to note warning signs are the last resort of consumer safety and should only be used when engineering practices cannot remove the hazards associated with the experiences or conditions. If it has been determined that engineering the hazard out is not possible, then develop proper educational measures and enforcement tactics to prevent incidents. The use of established warning methods is a great place to start.
Are you an expert or novice event planner? Test your knowledge regarding important event industry concepts that separate the pros from the pretenders.
Event planners, I present to you… the “Birthday Invitation” The 5 W’s: Why, Who, When, Where and What…?
It does not get much simpler than that. That’s it… REALLY!?
Well, I might be leaving out a few minor details. Just a few!
I oversimplify the process to make a point… OBVIOUSLY!
Events range in size from small family gatherings (such as birthday parties—I’m sure you have been to a disaster or two), to multi-day music festivals (such as the Fyre Festival—if you are not familiar, please look it up), each requiring qualified and competent event planners to address a multitude of issues—easier said than done sometimes. By-the-way… Just because you have been to a birthday party or attended a music festival—does not mean you can plan one.
Many event planners spend countless hours developing and managing their events; the bulk of which are extremely successful—apparently following a rigorous process—or they are just lucky!
I’ve spent over a decade examining and participating in 100’s of legal matters surrounding the event industry. I have concluded that the rigor to achieve event success is not practiced by all—or even understood.
Let’s start with the basics—the birthday invitation. When developing an event, an event planner must determine five (5) necessary elements, specifying:
- Why (the purpose and role of the event);
- Who (the audience and stakeholders);
- When (date and duration);
- Where (location and available space); and,
- What (the resources available and desired outcomes).
By now you have determined that the “birthday invitation” is just the starting point to having a successful event.
For those that are not formally trained or might have missed a class or two… the process is much deeper. In fact, the event industry has a formalized model that uses at its core the 5W’s to create, develop, and deliver a successful event. This internationally recognized framework, known as the Event Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK) Model, not only requires planners to answer the 5W’s, but to manage design, administration, marketing, operations and risk.
To effectively deliver an event based on the EMBOK Model, an event planner must follow a systematic process—every time.
In addition to the 5W’s and management responsibilities, event planners must measure (identify and analyze event objectives), select (determine goal-oriented outcomes), monitor (event progress and status), communicate (acquire and distribute content), and document (collect data and evidence) to achieve event success.
The real kicker… now apply ALL of these principles to every decision you make (selection of staff, vendors [food to amusements], locations [purpose-built vs. non-purpose-built], audience type, transportation, insurance, contracts, security, and more.
Remember, for an event to be successful, the planner must manage all obligations appropriately; after all, you only have one opportunity to succeed.
The birthday invitation is a great starting point, but consider when you are identifying, selecting, organizing, developing, and promoting an event with the purpose of providing people an experience, you have a responsibility to adhere to more than the fundamentals… you have a duty to deliver a reasonably safe and enjoyable experience following the established standards set by qualified and competent planners and industry experts.
Some friendly advice… This is not a suggestion, this is the rule! So find the time to incorporate it into your process and avoid any potential pitfalls—before it’s too late!
Vetting product and service suppliers is not a new concept. In fact, according to ADWEEK, over 80% of shoppers conduct research prior to a purchase—for personal consumption and use.
Unfortunately, in the corporate world, it is a 180-degree shift—maybe it has something to do with spending other people’s money?
Global Risk Management Solutions, a leading compliance management firm, estimates that less than 20 percent of companies do any type of screening of their vendors, suppliers, and subcontractors. This gap in due diligence is a significant area of risk for any industry or organization—especially the events industry.
By failing to examine vendor’s capabilities, insurance policies, SOPs, permits and more, event planners and venue operators are exposing themselves to numerous liabilities.
Vendor/third-party vetting and oversight requirements are on the rise due to broken promises and disastrous results—oftentimes leaving the event planner or venue operator “holding the bag” —a haute couture bag. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Selecting product and service suppliers can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be—it can be done with ease with a little pre-planning.
How well do you know your vendors with whom you conduct business? The truth is, probably not very well! Most organizations are not fully aware of a vendor’s abilities and/or shortcomings until it’s too late. Let’s change that.
It is understood that most events, and therefore planners, are pressed for time and money when identifying and selecting vendors. There is no benefit in the long run to fast-tracking this process. A well-established and methodical process will save you time and money in the end—as well as protect the reputation of the business.
Brian Avery, of Event Safety Services, has developed key concepts your company should address when evaluating vendors. Consider developing a checklist based on these ideas for your organization. Let’s get to know your supplier…
- Reach out to more than one vendor… and compare answers—it might surprise you. If you notice discrepancies… do more research. Also, determine if the vendor subs out work to other vendors. If so, make sure you use this process to vet them as well.
- Have your vendors provide a list of references (at least 3)? Word of mouth can be a very powerful tool… but it is only a place to start. There are many examples of suppliers that could paint a wall but could not pull a permit for work (think unlicensed contractors). Dig deeper… Check online references as well: Better Business Bureau (BBB), Google, Facebook, etc.
- Are they financially stable? Request to see financial statements—make sure the company can fund the job you have requested. The more expensive the job is, the deeper you dig to ensure they can complete it.
- Insurance… hedging your bet! Being provided a COI, named on the policy and setting limits is just the beginning. Insurance can get complicated… consult an insurance agent/broker or attorney that knows the event industry—be honest about what you are doing. Sneaky underwriters and spotty coverage is leaving many event planners and venue operators exposed. Claims based policies and policy exemptions often provide service providers with lower rates—but at what cost to you—the planner/operator. Read each vendors policy and ask questions… based on solid research/knowledge.
- You might need a license/permit for that. You might be surprised by what is regulated. A great place to start… state department of business and professional regulation. Each state maintains a list of regulated industries (everything from amusement rides to talent agencies). Ask each vendor if they are regulated by state or federal (separate database) requirements. By speaking to multiple vendors, you might get multiple answers—red flag.
- Is it written down? Verbal policies and procedures don’t hold much water. Uniformity, based on exacting regulations, standards, etc. make for good policies and procedures… if they are written down and followed. Everything from weather-related matters to food service handling should be addressed with plans. The goal is to compare policies and procedures and ensure compliance is obtained by all parties involved. If a vendor does not have written policies and procedures based on manufacturer materials, regulations, standards, and practices… you should consider finding someone else. Handing out waivers and stating it’s not my problem “won’t hold water.”
- Does training come with that? Determine if the staff provided by the vendor is trained per the policies and procedures provided. Ask to see training logs and manuals… you might even ask to speak to a staff member—you can learn a great deal from them. If staff are not properly trained… move on!
- In case of emergency! Preparedness is key to timely and efficient response. Make sure your vendors have a set plan addressing guest injuries and even natural disasters (size and scope of the event is relevant). Make sure plans are shared on both sides to provide consistent and timely care. Once again—they must be written down.
A comparative analysis of your findings should be conducted to determine the most suitable vendor for the job. There are instances when it benefits you to simply walk away. When in doubt—get out! By the way, this is a two-way street.
As event planners and venue operators, we have an obligation to ensure the safety of our patrons—by vetting your vendors, you are taking a huge step in the right direction in doing so.
Let’s set the example… the event industry should take the lead on this and show other industries how it can be done.