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Valuable Tips to Ensure the Safety and Success of Your Events

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By: JoAnn Mitchell, MBA, CMP | Oct 4, 2022

What’s the worst that could happen?  Few of us (except meeting planners) want to think about the worst that can happen at a meeting or an event but all of us have seen headlines regarding hotel fires, incidents with Norovirus or Covid-19 or food poisoning, among other things.

Can you prove your properties and food service partners are in compliance with the health and safety laws?  If you’re on a cruise ship, do you ever wonder how you really know it’s as clean and safe as advertised?  Could you use a fast way to narrow down your property searches and help you avoid ‘the worst that could happen’? 

As a professional meetings manager, you are looked to and regarded as an expert.  If you’ve ever thought about these issues for your personal travel or for your groups, below are some helpful places to look for safety compliance and information on hotels, restaurants and cruise ships. When you are considering venues, you may not have the time or the budget to conduct site inspections for everything on your first list.  Referencing this information can also be helpful in eliminating unsuitable sites, saving you time and energy.

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If you are in a US hotel, it should be in compliance with the Hotel Motel Fire Safety Act (HMFSA) of 1990.  This act was put into place after several devastating and fatal hotel fires in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and Westchester, NY in the late 1980s.  It mandates that hard-wired, single-station smoke detectors be installed in accordance with National Fire Protection Association Standard 74 in each guest room in each place of public accommodation affecting commerce. It also mandates that an automatic sprinkler system be installed in accordance with National Fire Protection Association Standard 29 in each place of public accommodation affecting commerce except those places that are three stories or lower1.

If you are working with Federal government contracts or meetings, the HMFSA List is the approved list of properties for Federal employees.  Many jurisdictions may have additional fire code requirements and the HMFSA/FEMA website is an easy place to start examining the safety of the properties on your search list.  That list can be found here: (https://apps.usfa.fema.gov/hotel).

If you’re considering a two story or less property, or an historic property, you may need to examine the fire safety protocols more closely not only to make sure they meet applicable fire codes, but that you are meeting any corporate or customer requirements for the safety of personnel.

You may wish to consider adding the local fire code inspection certification to your contract addenda and referencing the HMFSA listing numbers.

Food, sanitation and compliance with health codes is a little more fragmented.  Most but not all jurisdictions start with inspections on the local town/city level but there are many locations, even here in New Jersey that handle these inspections on a county or regional level.  In Bergen County for example most, but not all of, the sanitary inspections are done by the municipality.  The town is always a good place to start followed by the county/parish and finally the State Risk Management Blog 2 Department of Health.  Since all food serving establishments are required to display their Certificate of Inspection, you should be able to get this information fairly easily.  What should you do if you do not see a current health inspection Certification? Ask for it! Usually, the venue is pleased to produce it.  If the venue demurs, you may wish to reconsider keeping them on your bid list or, include contract language covering the requirement for a successful and passing inspection as a condition to the execution of a contract.

Cruise ships are a unique combination of hotel, restaurant, and transportation.  One of the easiest ways to examine cruise ship sanitation is through the US Center for Disease Control Vessel Sanitation Program, usually referred to as the VSP or the ‘green sheet’ from the days when the VSP scores were printed on green paper. All ships that carry passengers from the United States are subject to this comprehensive inspection, regardless of where the ship is registered.  If a vessel is carrying passengers from a US port, it is subject to the VSP.  The VSP covers multiple areas affecting the health of passengers and crew.  These areas include the physical state of food preparation areas; medical incidents, especially gastro-intestinal illnesses aboard the vessel; swimming pools and spas.  Available information includes the details of the vessel inspection along with the ships corrective action report. Ships are inspected twice a year, without notice3.  The inspection history and previous corrective action reports are publicly available.  Using this information can be helpful in determining if a vessel is suitable (and safe) early in the selection process for use by your group.  


No risk management protocol will ever absolutely guarantee total avoidance of any risk.  Using the tools that are available and referenced here can save you time and effort in your venue searches as well as help reduce known areas of risk.

Use these tools to help assure that your group can continue to rely on your professionalism to meet and travel safely and successfully.

Wishing you safe and happy travels!

1) STATUTE-104-Pg747.pdf (govinfo.gov)

2)List of NFPA Codes and Standards

3) About VSP Inspections | VSP | CDC



JoAnn Mitchell headshot
JoAnn Mitchell, MBA, CMP
Senior Consultant at Mitchell Management & Consulting

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