Exhibition Industry Copes with California Wildfires

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Carlsbad, CA – Everyone at Trade Show Executive extends their heartfelt thanks to its friends in the trade show industry who expressed their support and concern during the outbreak of wildfires in Southern California.

TSE‘s offices in Carlsbad, 30 miles north of San Diego, were closed the week of Oct.22nd as three fires — in San Marcos, Rancho Bernardo/Rancho Santa Fe and Camp Pendleton — came too close for comfort. Our homes were also under mandatory evacuation orders. Things began getting back to normal this week as the threat of fire passed, although falling flakes of ash and the heavy smell of smoke lingered in the air.

The exhibition industry was unscathed as well as the fires burned well away from the downtown areas of San Diego, Los Angeles and Anaheim.

“We are open for business despite the challenges posed by these devastating fires,” Carol Wallace, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center Corp. “Downtown San Diego, the location of the convention center, hotels, restaurants and shops utilized by attendees and exhibitors, remains open and is in no way threatened by the fires.”

Similar updates were sent to the industry from the Anaheim/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which noted that all regional airports were open and the closest fire was a good 15 miles from Anaheim.

San Diego lost one event; the annual employee meeting of Sharp Healthcare. Sharp is located in San Diego and most of its employees were called into work helping residents.

The Annual Meeting of the American Society for Human Genetics, however, began as scheduled Oct. 24. The society used its web site to urge attendees to double up in their downtown San Diego hotel rooms in order to free up space for fire evacuees.

A key development in San Diego was the city’s decision to house more than 10,000 evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium rather than at the convention center.  The Del Mar Fairgrounds and a local shopping mall also served as evacuation centers.

Officials at the Qualcomm  had earlier been provided with a copy of the comprehensive guide to turning major venues into “mega shelters” issued earlier this year by the International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM). The Mega Shelter Best Practices Guidelines for Planning, Activation, and Operation, which received one of TSE’s 2007 Innovation Awards, is packed with details of best practices for facility managers whose buildings suddenly become home to large numbers of evacuees.

Executives from the IAAM contacted the managers of various facilities in the San Diego area at the height of the fires to offer advice and assistance.

Reach Carol Wallace at (619) 525-5000 or carol.wallace@visitsandiego.com; IAAM Director of Life, Safety & Security Howard Hansen at (972) 906-7441 or harold.hansen@iaam.org