It was recently announced that the two largest convention centers in the USA (the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando and McCormick Place in Chicago) recently signed on to a new certificate program to help the trade show and convention industry resume face-to-face events in a safe way. The Global BioRisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a division of the worldwide cleaning industry association (ISSA), designed this program to teach venues how to prepare for, respond to and recover from infections and biohazards. The GBAC advisory board is made up of experts from Harvard, Penn State, Emory University and several government agencies. These advisors also have experience as consultants for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The GBAC Star is the gold standard of prepared facilities. This accreditation means that a facility has:
- Established and maintained a cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention program to minimize risks associated with infectious agents like the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
- The proper cleaning protocols, disinfection techniques, and work practices in place to combat biohazards and infectious disease.,
- Highly skilled cleaning professionals who are trained for outbreak and infectious disease preparation and response.
Facilities like the OCCC and McCormick can gain accreditation when they show they are implementing specific standards for cleaning and disinfecting for COVID-19 and are safe enough to welcome exhibitors, attendees and guests. The process includes:
- Each venue must have 1 or more staff member complete a 2-3 hour online GBAC fundamentals certificate course
- Includes training on the proper use of chemicals, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other tools necessary in the use of preventing or responding to infectious diseases like coronavirus
- The cost is $150 for ISSA members and $300 for nonmembers
- Each venue must demonstrate compliance with 20 program elements, including:
- Personnel training
- Risk assessment
- Risk mitigation
- Program control
- Inventory control and management
All online applications are reviewed and approved by the GBAC advisory council.
The program is backed by 10 industry organizations including the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), International Facility Management Association (IFMA), International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association and the Go LIVE Together Coalition, which Skyline Exhibits is a member of.
David Dubois, president and CEO of the IAEE, recently stated that the GBAC Star designation will be especially important to local convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs). Cities that can promote that their local convention center, hotels and other venues that have been GBAC certified will be more attractive to meeting and event planners, especially as we begin resuming face-to-face trade shows, conventions and events. The first city to sign on was Dallas, Texas. Visit Dallas and the Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District announced that the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and other city-owned venues will be part of its GBAC Star certification efforts. Las Vegas followed with the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announcing plans to pursue the certification.
Although the GBAC Star “seal of approval” is a great step in ensuring that the venues we visit for trade shows, conferences, conventions and events are safe for exhibitors, attendees and staffers, the big question is whether or not this is enough to rebuild the confidence for people to show up and feel safe. Other factors will also play a major role in the entire process of reopening, like safety assurances from the travel industry, hotels, rental car and ride share companies and the food service industry.