How do you become a Covid-19 Officer?
Emma Foster, Director at Foster Events & Projects, talks us through her experience acting as a Covid-19 Officer for the first time and the challenge of knowing exactly what this unprecedented role would involve….
Back in June during the first UK lockdown, I took on the role of COVID-19 Officer at a new behind-closed-doors professional tennis tournament. When I accepted the contract, I didn’t fully understand what this meant, or what I was getting into. My new employers (who weren’t ‘events people’) also didn’t know what it meant, but they were very happy to have me on the team so they could delegate anything and everything Coronavirus-related to me.
Fast forward to mid-August and the six-week long tournament finished on schedule with excellent feedback from all involved. Most importantly, from my perspective, it finished with zero positive COVID-19 test results. How was this possible given my lack of knowledge right at the start?
Ok, so I didn’t know everything there was to know about managing the risks associated with Coronavirus. Yet at the time, neither did most people. Two hours after I had officially become a COVID-19 Officer, I read DCMS’s excellent online guidance and a whole host of online articles on topics including infection control, entry screening protocols and (crucially) managing crowd behaviour.
I started with a simple risk assessment and treated COVID-19 exactly like any other risk an event organiser could face. At the end of that first day, I felt confident again in the process of event planning.
I certainly learnt a huge amount from the experience, but the most interesting was how many of these ‘lessons’ I already knew and applied to events of all sizes and formats. Only the specifics (such as infra-red thermometers not functioning well during a 35 degree heatwave) were completely new. I realised that it isn’t necessarily knowledge which counts at the start – it’s your mindset. If you have the right approach to safety, problem solving and risk management then you can educate yourself on the exact requirements. In this case it’s COVID-19, but there’s always something new to navigate.
Event professionals are experts at risk management – we just don’t always realise that’s what we’re doing. The first time I needed to procure lightning protection for a 9,000 seater temporary grandstand, I had no idea what to do so I researched, spoke to a specialist company and got on with it. It wasn’t so hard in the end.
To any previously successful event organisers who feel unsure in the uncertain world we now find ourselves in: don’t shy away because you don’t think you have the necessary knowledge. You have all the experience you need.