The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Florida, hosts nearly 200 annual events, which include 115 conventions and trade shows that convene over 1.5 million attendees and a $3 billion economic impact per year. The convention center received the GBAC STAR accreditation last year and since then it has hosted several successful and safe events.
The convention center, known as “The Center of Hospitality,” comprises two buildings: the West Building and the North-South Building. These have over 2 million square feet of exhibition space and seven million square feet in total.
While the OCCC did not close its doors completely during the pandemic, its leaders recognized the facility would have to modify its approach to creating safe, healthy, and enjoyable experiences.
“We realized very early on that creating formal procedures around cleaning and disinfecting, and developing guidelines for social distancing, wearing masks, and detecting COVID-19 symptoms were essential for the safety of our visitors, clients, and employees,” said Mark Tester, executive director, OCCC. “We sought out organizations with expert knowledge who would be able to help OCCC respond to the challenges of the pandemic,” he added.
To ensure OCCC was fully equipped to host safe events, the facility pursued the GBAC STAR accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC). To achieve the accreditation, facilities must demonstrate capability and compliance with 20 key program elements, including personal protective equipment, personnel training and emergency response. Applications are reviewed by GBAC’s experts and accreditation is renewed annually, at which point organizations must showcase how their procedures and results have improved.
The OCCC also implemented its Recovery and Resiliency Plans in July 2020, developed in consultation with Orange County’s Health Services Department and the Florida Department of Health. The OCCC is also collaborating with an established healthcare system in Central Florida for guidance and on-site support in the form of temperature checks, screenings and telemedicine visits.
GBAC also offers training courses for individuals, and the OCCC has 28 Environmental Service (EVS) workers ranging from leads, assistant supervisors, supervisors, and managers that have passed the GBAC Fundamentals Online Course.
Following its GBAC STAR accreditation, the OCCC has hosted the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Junior National Volleyball Championships, the Together Again Expo, the Florida Wedding Expo and the International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors meeting.
Through the accreditation process, OCCC learned which procedures, chemicals, tools and equipment are well-suited to take on the challenges of infectious diseases. The facility only uses cleaning and disinfecting products that have been validated by the CDC and have been assigned a number from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has a documented approach to facility maintenance and its employees are properly trained to follow the outlined steps to make sure OCCC is cleaned frequently and thoroughly.
The OCCC’s custodial team conducts cleaning during the day and in the evenings according to GBAC STAR accredited processes. Bringing greater visibility to the cleaning process gives guests a high degree of confidence that the facility is dedicated to the health and safety of its visitors.
Guests and clients also appreciate that the OCCC has guidelines in place for physical distancing, face masks, and temperature checks and implemented a check-in process that manages attendee flow, avoids congestion, and administers essential health screenings in the form of temperature checks and surveys. The convention center also conducted daily temperature checks on employees and has over 150 portable hand-sanitizer stations.
When bidding to host a new event, the GBAC STAR accreditation reassures clients that OCCC is going above and beyond to maintain safety. A commitment to cleanliness will be an increasingly important consideration, resulting in additional business that supports the facility and the local economy.
“With the help of GBAC STAR, local and state health departments, and healthcare partners, the OCCC is securing its future as a leading venue and as an economic driver for the destination and the industry,” added Tester.
For more information, visit www.occc.net.