How to survive a health crisis during a FOSS conference

How to survive a health crisis during a FOSS conference

The title describes everything. This is not only for FOSS conferences but events in general. Attending a conference means to meeting friends (usually you meet once a year) and have fun in general.

The organizers are responsible for everything that happens during the conference hours. We are grown people, so we have to be responsible for the rest of the day. Sometimes bad things might happen (bad: the critical meaning is health issues). Although the organizers aren't responsible for that, they are the key people, who know the system in their country and it's a good and human thing to help the person with the problem. Everyone wants to have fun and be happy at the end of the conference.

Being an organizer and volunteer, I felt the frustration of having everything covered. I lived a couple of times the health crisis during the conference.

Here are some points to cover before and during the conference. Please leave a comment if you want to share your experience.

Before the conference:

0. If the conference takes place within European Union, you can ask the European citizens to get the European Insurance Card. It doesn't cover everything, but at least you'll avoid some stupid bureaucracy. If they're not EU citizens or they don't have insurance, ask them to buy one for their trip. Usually, when you buy a plane ticket, they suggest buying medical insurance. Do it, because it will save you from a lot of trouble.

1. During the online registration, ask for emergency contact (ask for a name and phone number). It will help you and doctors just in case they need the medical history of the person, allergies, etc.

2. If they're not feeling comfortable providing their name and number, ask them to enable a feature of emergency call on their phone or even better to install a program with the emergency call and some medical history and their medication. Personally, I have the Medical ID (Free) installed (you can choose other). It will help the doctors because it has a field to add your medical history so they can treat you correctly.

3. This might be very personal, but ask them to enter where they will stay. You might need to go to their hotel and bring a special medication they "forgot" to bring with them. And that leads to another issue. Ask them to bring the medication to the conference with them.

4. During registration, it's good to have a field for write down a disease that the attendee feels comfortable sharing. There is a code of conduct committee that can guarantee this information. For example, if the attendee has epilepsy, it's good for the organizers to know and be prepared. Usually, people with epilepsy tell that information to their friends, so they won't be surprised just in case of a seizure.

5. During registration, ask for special types of food. It's not the only religion that prohibits some kinds of food but there are some other categories such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. Some of them are just a way of life but others are health-related.

6. Gather information and write on the website everything health-related that the attendees must know because usually there are some illnesses that come up after the attendees return back home. A special quote is if there are special vaccines that the attendees have to be vaccinated. It's better for the locals to write down

7. Gather information and write on the website what everyone has to be careful about. Examples are, don't drink tap water, buy water from kiosks and that costs ..., don't walk alone after midnight at that place because you might get robbed, smoking pot is illegal, traffic police violations. Find out what the attendees need to know so they won't end up either at the hospital or police station.

8. Every country has a different health system. Make sure that you find out the hospitals that accept emergencies and also the pharmacies that are open during the night. Make a list with details (address, phone number, specialties, etc) for the days of the conference. It's better not to use it rather not have it at all.

9. Gather all addresses and phone numbers of embassies and consulates of the attendees. It's the place they have to call if they have a problem and there are people who speak the same language that can help them.

10. On the name tags, write down the emergency phone numbers (like 112). In my country it's different for the police, fire department, ambulance. Also, buy a disposable cell phone number and put the number on the name tags, so attendees can call a local that knows the system and can help.

11. Contact Red Cross volunteers. I guess there are different organizations for every country. You can search for their information. They might be present during the conference for free. They are people with jobs and they are volunteers, so if they cannot join you, ask them to train someone for some basics.

12. Write a document "Protocol if we have to call the authorities". That includes everything from fire to ambulance and from the police to traffic police. Of course, you cannot include everything (because you never know) but at least you can act for some basic situations.

During the conference:

1. Keep a central booth for Red Cross volunteers. They usually carry a bag with heavy equipment. Ask them how they want to have communication for emergencies. Usually, many venues have defibrillators (I think it's called like that). So help them to find one. Ask the volunteers what else they need to operate. Don't forget they are volunteers, so please make sure they have free food and water, and maybe you can give them a T-shirt of your project for free.

2. Make sure you have a private room that the Red Cross volunteers can examine someone. That can be an office. Nothing fancy. Usually, people don't like to be examined in public. Also, the Red Cross Volunteers are more concentrated when the place is quiet.

3. If you don't have a Red Cross volunteer, try to train someone or find a key person (name and phone number) who knows CPR, how to use a defibrillator, etc. He might save a life before the ambulance arrives.

4. Have an Emergency mobile number that an attendee can call you when he faces a problem. Have in mind that everything will happen during the night (because people tend to do stupid things during the night). So be prepared to go to the police (got robbed or had a fight with a local etc), go to a hospital (got hit by a local or got a bicycle and fell, etc). As I wrote, the organizers aren't responsible for what happens after the conference hours. But leaving someone who doesn't know how the foreign system works, will be bad for you and the organization in general. So make shifts for locals on-call :-)

5. Try to pass everything as quietly as you can. It's not good to make a fuss out of the incident. The person with the problem doesn't like everyone to see and ask if he's OK or feel pity for him. That's why the private room helps.

If you have an idea that I forgot, please leave a comment. Please share it with people that organize conferences because it might give them some tips.

Some of the above ideas are overdone. It's better to be prepared rather than be stressed.
I hope following all or some of the above will lead you to a successful conference.

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