3 min read

Keeping Risk Management in Mind When Planning an Event


When planning for an event, nobody wants to think about the bad things that can happen. Not even us!

Imagine this. You’re hosting your company’s first 5K. As you’re reviewing your marathon’s medical plan, or assessing your event safety needs, the last thing you want to think about is people getting hurt. The good news is, the average safety preparedness company does - so you don’t have to.

Your boss comes in and tells you that you need to create a medical plan, an operations plan and a security plan. You contact your local jurisdiction to ensure that all is good to go. The real problem isn’t the fire that can occur at a moment’s notice or the active shooter that comes to the event. You assume you can rely on local resources to manage a crisis like that and you aren’t entirely wrong. In many jurisdictions, the fire and police departments will arrive in 4 - 6 minutes. If your event is in a remote area, the response time can be longer (15-30 minutes or more). You’re on your own until they get there and you’re on your own when they leave.

Until the response teams arrive, you’re attempting to control the situation and keeping everyone out of danger. You’re panicking and unbeknownst to you, you’re making mistakes. When everything is finally under control, your company still has a reputation to uphold and a need to attract future customers - if you don’t, you’re out of business. So, how can you do this right the next time around?

Follow the checklist below to ensure that you have the knowledge and resources to manage the unthinkable.


  • Pick an Incident Commander

    • Figure out who on site (and ideally, who offsite) is in charge of the event if an incident occurs.

  • Train the Incident Commander (IC)

    • Leverage tools like FEMA’s ICS 100 to train the “IC” on how to actually be the big boss.

    • Note: even day to day “big bosses” aren’t always comfortable running a crisis situation.

  • Train your staff

    • Walk your staff through the incident command model, the “default responses”

      • Default responses for participants should include:

        • Freeze!

        • Evacuate!

        • Do something, then evacuate!

  • Train your volunteers

    • Volunteer training can be brief. It can occur the morning of the event, the day before, even via webinar. It can be through whatever mechanism makes the most sense for your company.

  • Train your vendors    

    • Your medical team and security team need to be aligned (ideally staffed through the same company). They need to know who’s in charge of which situations and which situations require them to collaboratively problem solve (hint: most!).

  • Conduct a risk assessment

    • Pick a few operations people, a few HR people and a few of those really negative (you know, the coffee’s never good enough) people.

    • Bring them into a conference room (ideally with a whiteboard)

    • Ask them to start shouting out every bad thing that can happen at your event. This will take a while!

    • Challenge them to build on what you’ve jotted onto the board (If they said fire, challenge them or yourself to come up with the different types of fires that can occur).

    • Now, “prioritize”. In risk management, we use a fancy-ish formula. Likelihood * Impact = Degree of Priority. If an incident is really likely to occur and/or will have a huge impact  it’s important to plan for it. If it’s not as likely and the impact is minimal, then it might be a lower priority. Here’s an example: You’re in Central California, in the middle of wildlife with tons of brush. It’s July. Forest fires are going to have a high impact and a medium-high likelihood. Conversely, alien attacks are going to have a medium impact and a low likelihood, so you don’t have to spend as much time planning for those. Want more information on that formula? Here’s a link to Harvard Business Review where they talk about it (mind you without the aliens, suit yourself).  

  • Respond to the risk assessment

    • Take all the incidents that have a medium to high likelihood to occur (will vary by area and specific “thing”) and take all the incidents that are medium or high impact and create a plan for how you’ll deal with them.

  • Re-train the staff, now that they have a complete picture of the bad things that can happen (note: you may think, “why not just wait to do the training in the first place?”). It’s more efficient and repetition helps create a lasting memory and a better understanding.

  • Share your risk assessment with the appropriate parties (medical team, security team, local fire, EMS, police, etc.)

  • Run the event!

  • Debrief and identify the areas that needed improvement as well as what didn’t go “according to plan”. Re-tool and re-work those areas to see how they can be improved upon.



You are officially all set to run the 5K like a pro!




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