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May 20, 2014

IMEX Report: Safety in the Meetings Industry

Germany’s 2010 Duisberg Love Parade (which caused the deaths of 21 people) has been back in the news as Germany’s public prosecution office presses charges against the organisers, the head of the city development office and the building inspection office.

As a result, IMEX and CIM carried out a joint survey of German IMEX visitors and CIM readers. Of the 166 respondents 44 percent were corporate, 40 percent agency, and 9 percent association with the remainder from venues. The developments surrounding the Love Parade case were being followed by 80 percent of respondents, with 60 percent saying it has changed their attitude towards event safety.

Nearly 18 percent had already personally experienced an emergency as either an organiser or participant. While crushes caused by huge crowds and incidents involving building collapses are thankfully rare, falls among participants or speakers seem to occur more and more frequently. Medical emergencies are not uncommon – with on-site medical care not always available. Evacuations following bomb scares or fire alarms were mentioned frequently by respondents. One respondent had to deal with a state of emergency created by an impending civil war, another with an earthquake during a congress and a third with violent demonstrations against a G20 summit, with the hotel exit temporarily sealed off.

Those who had experienced an emergency primarily sought the advice and opinions of colleagues (64 percent) and modified the briefing requirements for service personnel (61 percent) accordingly. In multiple responses these measures were followed by issuing safety guidelines (48 percent) and organising safety training (42 percent). A company-wide risk assessment was carried out by 21 percent.

Even without having experienced a serious incident, 72 percent of respondents and their employees took part in further training on a regular basis and 44 percent had guidelines or a checklist for risk assessment. However the percentage who updated or revisited their guidelines on a regular basis were relatively low.

“Sometimes yes, sometimes no – depends on the venue,” was how the majority answered in question of whether safety was an overriding or secondary concern to them during site inspections. For one in three respondents it was paramount. “We ask the appropriate questions about emergency plans etc,” reported 27 percent and “I am accompanied by our own safety consultant or our agency,” said 11 percent. However, almost one in 10 considered the issue of secondary concern and relied entirely on the venue operators. 19 percent admitted to not knowing the location of the escape routes for their last event.

The Model Event Venue Safety Ordinance (MVStättVO), which serves the 16 federal states in Germany as a template for their individual Event Venue Safety Ordinances (VStättVO), was familiar to 31 percent, somewhat familiar 41 percent and not at all for 28 percent. When it came to the sources used to gather information about responsibility and liability for event safety, venue operators ranked at the top with 57 percent, followed by trade press (52 percent), professional association (33 percent), trade shows and conferences (27 percent), white papers and information from safety experts (27 percent) and agencies (18 percent).

Further sources included the firm’s internal safety officer and legal department.

The impression that everybody is talking about the digitisation of events, but hardly anyone about safety, was confirmed by the vast majority of respondents. However as CIM’s editor Kerstin Wünsch said: “Safety is a bit like the unpopular mother-in-law. You avoid contact as much as possible, but you cannot entirely do without her either.”

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