Have a Plan for Mitigating Cardiac Arrest & Life-Threatening Allergies

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Expect Diversity, Tyra Hilliard, cardiac arrest, allergies, meeting tips
Healthy attendees; Photo Credit: Rawpixel/Unsplash

Meeting planners have a power that most of them don’t know about—or wield heartily enough.

It is the power of demand. Not in the economic sense but in the risk management sense. It is one of my pet peeves that despite the fact that sudden cardiac arrest kills more than 300,000 people a year in the U.S., many hotels choose not to have automated external defibrillators (AEDs), the machines that can correct irregular heartbeats, on property. When asked, they are vague about why they don’t, but if pressed, the word “liability” usually rears its ugly head.

Here’s the thing though. Every U.S. state has an AED Good Samaritan law. Forty-eight of those states protect the owner of the AED or the place the AED is found (in our example, the hotel). They all protect the user of the AED (some with stipulations about training, but some regardless of training). So why aren’t hotels carrying AEDs? In my mind, it’s because planners aren’t demanding them. This is where planners can wield their considerable power. When choosing a hotel, ask the question. Don’t just ask whether a hotel has an AED, go a step further and ask:

  • How many AEDs do they have onsite?
  • Where are their AEDs kept?
  • Who is authorized to administer them?

This lets hotels know this is a minimal expectation. Perhaps if enough planners ask, this will become a basic hotel safety feature in the near future, like fire extinguishers or sprinkler systems.

While I’m on this note, another safety feature in today’s everyday risk world is food allergies. I hear more and more stories about adults who are developing new or worsening food allergies. A little known set of laws that many in our industry are unaware of are the undesignated stock epinephrine laws. These also vary state-by-state, but they allow different public entities (mainly those where food is served) to get a prescription to carry epinephrine (like EpiPen or Auvi-Q brands) on hand in case of an emergency allergic reaction.

So imagine you are in a hotel restaurant or at a catered event and one of your attendees goes into anaphylactic shock. She either didn’t know she had such a severe allergy or she came unprepared and her own epinephrine is up in her room; her room key is in her purse, but she can’t tell you what room she’s in. Time is of the essence because her throat has closed up and she can’t breathe. With undesignated epinephrine, her breathing can be restored, an ambulance called and her life saved. Without it, a tragedy.

I have always been a fan of the saying “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Liability is this spooky specter that sometimes keeps businesses from doing the right thing. Demand from customers for these risk management elements can help hotels overcome their reticence. Collectively, we can help effect change for the better.

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