When it comes to potential medical emergencies at events or on incentive programmes, careful preparation could mean the difference between life and death. By Don Douloff, March/April 2009
No planner likes to imagine a medical emergency occurring at an event or on an incentive programme. But accidents happen, so planners must prepare for the worst. Sandy Neil, business development specialist, travel, at CAA Manitoba, has encountered several medical emergencies with groups and has put together her own preparation routine.
- Part of Neil’s pre-conference meeting checklist involves finding out if there’s a doctor or nurse on-site, locating the medical office and verifying its hours of operation.
- At the pre-con meeting with resort staff, Neil identifies a go-to person she can call in an emergency.
- Another tip: determine the facility’s response policies and on-site medical capabilities, including defibrillator equipment and first-aid rooms.
- If she has a choice of insurance companies, Neil prefers a carrier providing a 24-hour 1-800 number, with operators who speak English. This prevents situations such as the one she faced in Cancun, where the insurance-helpline operator spoke little English, was not familiar with local medical facilities and directed Neil and her attendee to a non-existent hospital.
- With any activity involving a boat or water, Neil finds out, before the group boards, who can swim.
- Although Neil notes that she’s not responsible for an individual’s behavior, she does monitor alcohol consumption and will try to find a ‘buddy’ to take care of anyone who appears to have drunk too much. If her attendees are at a group function off-property, she makes sure that no one is left on their own or left behind.
- Neil uses reputable Destination Management Companies (DMCs) in-destination and reviews all safety procedures during the pre-conference meeting prior to the group arrival or group event.
ON-SITE medical-preparednessess tips:
- Tailor your risk assessment to each event, keeping in mind potential emergency medical needs, hazards, specific participant demographics, the aim of the event, planned activities and the venue’s characteristics.
- Assess the need for vehicles (for transporting injured participants) and specialized equipment.
- For events of fewer than 500 attendees, it’s usually enough to have staff members trained in medical aid, especially if the venue is close to a hospital. For events larger than that, consider hiring emergency service personnel, allotting one medical technician for every 1,000 to 3,000 participants.
- In a remote location, it’s a good idea to hire on-site ambulances, along with mobile medical facilities. Air-medical resources should also be considered.