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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2016 Vol. 63 No. 4

Arranging the Texas Emergency Management Conference Exhibit Hall

Exhibit Hall

For the last five years, Scott Sutherland has been in charge of organizing all of the companies, local and state agencies as well as nonprofit and voluntary organizations that exhibit at the Texas Emergency Management Conference. This year, the 183,712 square foot, brand new Exhibit Hall No. 2 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio will be full of staff, displays, equipment and vehicles large and small.

For Scott, arranging the exhibit hall for the Texas Emergency Management Conference is fairly straight forward. At times, though, it can get a little tricky.

Private sector exhibitors naturally want to have the best locations on the exhibit floor. And they are charged accordingly for them. These locations tend to be high-traffic areas near the conference registration desk and around the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) lounge. Many of the nonprofit organizations that showcase some of their emergency response assets have an entirely different perception as to what constitutes a good location.

Exhibit hall

For agencies with emergency response assets, a good exhibit floor location will be one that allows for quick egress from the exhibit hall should any of their response assets be deployed if an emergency occurs while the conference is underway. These displays must be located on the floor in a way that ensures safe, easy access to at least one exit with minimal disruption to other displays, while at the same time making them appear to be a cohesive, integrated part of the overall floor display. That’s the tricky part.

Many possible floor layouts have to be considered when there is a limited supply of doors and a maximum number of exhibitors who require quick access at all times to those doors. Exhibit Hall No. 2 has two entry/egress doors. For an emergency management conference this can easily be more than half of the exhibits. It is not uncommon to have to release an asset or two from the exhibit hall during daylight hours. On occasion, multiple assets from large floor exhibits have had to be disassembled, packed up and released in middle of the night. Either way, coordination with the convention center and local police is a key factor to ensuring a safe, efficient egress from the exhibit hall.

It can sometimes be difficult to explain to a prospective exhibitor why they cannot choose their placement on the exhibit floor. Fortunately the majority understand, since very often they too are displaying emergency response equipment and vehicles that may be called into action on short notice.

Scott ensures that all exhibitors learn and follow conference center rules and fire department regulations. Every year a move-in, set-up and move-out schedule is developed, and the San Antonio Fire Department fire regulations and assembly occupancies for the convention center is distributed. Some rules mandate what materials may be used to construct displays, smoke detector use, access to entryways and exits as well as fire and safety considerations that vehicle exhibitors must follow.

Exhibit hall

Attendees at the conference can see antique as well as cutting edge fire engines and ambulances. Large, mobile kitchens, mobile communication centers and mobile medical facilities are set up. The latest technology developed for emergency communications, lighting, first response and the like is displayed and demonstrated. And TDEM sets up and operates a remote State Operating Center, “SOC in a Box.” Each year the exhibit hall is indeed an interesting and fascinating place to visit.


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