The Reno-Sparks Convention Center was the venue for a multiday trade show I used to produce twice each year, an event that filled more than 210,000 square feet of exhibit space, with 710 booths filling the front of the hall, and semi-truck trailers – serving as “rolling showrooms” for footwear vendors – filling the back. EMTs were scheduled to staff the on-site first-aid station, as required by local regulations for groups of 4,000 or more.
At this particular event, snow had fallen the evening before opening day. By morning, the snow had stopped, but with below-freezing temperatures, the parking lot between one of the host hotels across the street and the convention center was a sheet of ice. Convention center personnel salted the lot to make the path less treacherous.
My euphoria at seeing the first attendees fill the halls at 8 a.m. was short-lived. Soon the on-site EMTs were overwhelmed with reports of injuries – everything from head gashes to sprains from falling on ice required the assistance of additional local emergency personnel. Getting the emergency teams from the center’s entrance to the injured parties meant that they needed to be transported through the trade show.
Anyone who has managed a large trade show knows that it takes a lot of time to get from front to back when aisles are crowded with people. As show manager, I had a large golf cart with cargo space in back, so I could efficiently navigate through the 16 aisles of booths. As it turned out, I would spend the entire day driving emergency medical teams in that cart throughout the building and into the parking lot.
At the end of the day, we were relieved to hear that no one required hospitalization. But to add to the confusion, it was discovered that an unauthorized person who liked to dress up as Elvis had slipped into the show during all the distractions. Once security escorted “Elvis” out of the hall, I made an announcement that “Elvis had left the building,” ending the show on a much-needed light note.