New Orleans, LA – Attendees of EMS EXPO and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) regularly attend educational sessions and view exhibits at this annual event. What they usually don’t expect is first-hand experience.
Hurricane Katrina was expected to slam the Gulf Coast within hours of the show’s end on August 27th at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Here’s how the show, organized by Cygnus Expositions, and its decorator, Freeman, sprung into action and provided some much-needed help to the beleaguered city in the aftermath of the powerful storm.
Taking Care of Business
EMS EXPO featured more than 300 companies on the show floor and drew nearly 5,000 emergency medical service professionals. Cygnus Expositions was monitoring the progress of the storm throughout the event . “We were getting the very latest information from official sources as it was happening,” said David Caplin, Show Manager. “We were prepared to assist any attendees and exhibitors who felt the need to leave early.
Show service contractor Freeman worked to expedite early move-out without penalty for those who chose that option on Saturday. NAEMT cancelled its Saturday night awards dinner, and emergency vehicles on display at the show were moved out and readied to see action in response to the storm’s fury.
The next day, NAEMT worked to assist any remaining attendees and exhibitors in getting out of the city. NAEMT president Ken Bouvier, a New Orleans EMS Supervisor, helped arrange transportation to the airport.
Attendees Stay to Help
Some attendees remained in the area to help. EMTs from South Dakota worked shifts at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel evacuation center and put together medical supplies from sample kits they received at the show. John R. Brophy, an Edgewater, NJ firefighter who stayed behind, was one member of that group. In his account of the events on Firehouse.com, he said, “I was never prouder to be part of and actually lead a team of people in a time of need …”
Other expo attendees from seven states helped set up a hospital at the Hilton Garden Inn, where they treated 1,200 guests for the next three days. Another New York EMT worked with EMS professionals at the Superdome. “They’re an amazing group,” Caplin said. “They had the opportunity to use their skills to help out in an emergency and they did.” NAEMT, based in Clinton, MS, still has members on the front lines of recovery while assisting its own members who have been affected by the storm.
Freeman Had a Solid Disaster Plan
Freeman’s five-year-old disaster plan helped ensure that exhibitor equipment was tracked after it shipped out. Meanwhile, their own equipment remained in the convention center and was still there as of Sept. 12. The company also sustained damage to its area warehouses. “Our people do amazing things every day,” said Ellen Beckert, Freeman’s Corporate Director of Marketing and Communications. “They (employees) knew we had to take care of the exhibitors first, and worry about our own materials later.”
Although Freeman was able to locate most area employees within a couple of days through its emergency hotline, one employee called in seven days later after being rescued from a rooftop in downtown New Orleans. “The biggest challenge was the absence of communication of any kind,” said Beckert. “But our employees knew the procedures to follow,” she said. The Freeman hotline enables employees to get regular updates from the company as well as report their own whereabouts.
Sidebar: DMC Rises to Occasion for Employees, Clients
New Orleans, LA – DMCs aren’t always on the front lines at trade shows, but the role they play in helping convention clients with housing and offsite programs is an important part of the overall convention market.
For Las Vegas-based USA Hosts, one of the largest DMCs, Hurricane Katrina affected their New Orleans office and operations along the Gulf Coast.The company had more than 100 group bookings in the region when Katrina struck.
“The No. 1 client question was whether their (upcoming) conventions in New Orleans would be okay,” said Don McPhail, Vice President of Marketing in the San Francisco office.
The company helped clients relocate and transferred deposits for offsite tours to other USA Hosts offices when feasible. Employees, too, were transferred, with six moving to corporate headquarters in Las Vegas.
New Orleans Vice President of Sales Karen Christensen, CMP, who hasn’t seen her New Orleans home since the hurricane, is one of them. But she’s still pondering ways to console one unlucky manufacturing association that has to relocate its event. The group also had to reschedule its event the last time it was booked in New Orleans—in 2001.“They were on a plane headed to New Orleans when the terrorist attacks happened,” Christensen said.
Contact: Karen Christensen (800) 634-6133