The duty officer/point person/something (duty officer hereafter) is a conference volunteer on duty to do initial triage and handling of serious events at the conference, particularly complaints of discrimination, harassment or assault.
The duty officer should be available at an advertised location and should be wearing distinctive clothing (such as a specially coloured shirt) when on duty. A duty officer should be available at conference social events as well as during the daily program.
The duty officer should always be interruptible for crises. Thus, they should not be doing routine duty at the same time if that means they aren't quickly interruptible, like conference network maintainence, or taking registrations, or selling gear.
The duty officer's role is to receive initial reports of problems and then refer them. Referrals will depend on conference policy, but might include:
- Routine queries to the registration desk
- Violations of conference policy to senior organisers
- Medical emergencies to doctors or ambulance services
- Personal emergencies to counselling
The duty officer may sometimes be involved in subsequent discussions, especially violations of conference policy.
Senior organisers should be prepared to place high priority on a referral from the duty officer. In particular, reports of discrimination, harassment or assault should take precedence over registration problems, equipment problems, or schedule problems.
The duty officer should have a charged, working mobile phone with contact details to reach whatever conference organisers are needed to handle a serious complaint (eg, harassment) and with emergency numbers. These organisers should know the identity of the duty officer(s), and the phone number(s) that the current duty officer can be expected to be calling from.
The duty officer and the registration/queries desk should BOTH have handouts giving:
- A venue map with bus stops, train stations, and emergency help points (if available) marked
- The number to call a taxi and the address of the venue to call it to (ie "University Hall, city campus, James Street entrance")
- The local emergency services number and any directions for calling it
- The contact number and locations for venue security if any
- The location of the nearest hospital emergency room
- The contact number and locations for nearby doctors and counselors (check before the event that they are willing to take new patients on short notice)
- The contact number and.or locations for the local mental illness crisis hotline or centre
- The contact number and/or locations for the local sexual assault crisis hotline or centre
Some of this could also be supplied in the conference material.
The duty officer should if possible have an unadvertised supply of cash for attendees in crisis: eg, change for a phone call and notes for a taxi ride. (Replace change with phone cards or a mobile phone that they can let others use as appropriate.)
Out of scopeEdit
The duty officer should immediately refer routine queries about, eg, talk times, scheduling, speaker facilities, social events and similar to the registration desk or other volunteers. The conference goers shouldn't be encouraged to think of them as the first place for these inquiries.
General friendship and emotional supportEdit
At geek events aimed at adults, there shouldn't be an expectation of conference personel, including the duty officer, being able or willing to provide amateur counselling on interpersonal disputes, loneliness, non-crisis mental illness and similar things. Any such inquiries should be met with an offer of help with contacting professionals, only.
Putting themself in dangerEdit
The duty officer (and other conference volunteers) must feel personally safe at all times. If they perceive threats against themselves or anyone in their vicinity, they should attempt to make themselves safe and contact security or appropriate emergency services (police, fire, medical) as a first priority (on the principle of not creating additional casualties).
Since they are needed at the conference, the duty officer does not accompany anyone to a hospital or doctor or similar, although they might find a volunteer or bystander to accompany someone who is alone or distressed.