Post authored by Chip Smith, VP of Global & Public Sector Solutions
I’ve noticed that Mother Nature has not been kind lately, especially when it comes to storms and earthquakes. While we can see a severe storm threat approaching easily enough, something like an earthquake can be more alarming due to its sudden, unforeseen onset. Do you have a contingency plan and overall strategy to manage such an event?
Like most people, I rely on a number of different news feeds to stay ahead of current topics and industry information. One of the feeds I watch closely each day is an internal Travel Alert, informing me of possible disruptions from such calamities to any of my company’s congresses and meetings around the world.
Occurrences like these are troubling for the event organizer as delegates may be in the middle of traveling while the destination and services may have dramatically changed or been disrupted.
It seems elementary, but having a contingency plan will drastically lessen the emotional hit of an unexpected outcome and increase odds of coming up with a good decision. It’s important to remember that your plan is key to avoiding costly, or in some cases deadly, mistakes.
Sadly, our world has had too many man-made catastrophes to be planned for and dealt with, namely the threat of terrorism and active shooters in crowded events. In a study conducted by Everbridge, an emergency management and safety solutions company, 69 percent of organizations polled say they view an active shooter incident as a potential top threat, while 79 percent say they’re not prepared for it. These organizations understand the importance of handling these situations correctly, but few have actual plans in place nor do they practice any type of drill to ensure steps are taken correctly.
Be Proactive and Comprehensive
It’s quite easy for most people to spend their workdays reacting to issues and crises, however, this is not one of those areas. Relying on a reactive approach to any emergency during a congress can be devastating.
While planning an event can be overwhelming and painstaking, you must always be proactive in your approach and comprehensive in your emergency response plan. Anything and everything that could go wrong should be discussed, at the very least, while detailed plans should be recorded and routinely practiced for common events such as earthquakes, fires, terrorist threats and other catastrophic possibilities.
Even after an event disaster plan is developed, the greatest hurdle is to quickly develop the correct options and decide on a course of action. Do we cancel the program? Do we move the program? Do we just hold the program and accommodate as best as possible? This is where insights and experience pay off for your organization, your partners in the industry and the delegates attending.
Your comprehensive disaster and contingency plans should include the following elements:
- Comprehensive staff training on contingency plans and onsite emergency response strategies and procedures.
- Integrate safety, security and disaster planning into project management and documentation processes. This would include complete development of emergency response and communications programs.
- Draw on the real-life experiences of team members or outside sources who have had to work through a disaster during a major event. Use these instances to highlight your own procedures and what can be tweaked or changed.
Your attendees and delegates won’t blame you for a disaster. However, they will hold you responsible for being ill-prepared to handle whatever event may strike. Developing a dynamic plan of action that accounts for the interests of the facility, vendors, exhibitors and attendees is critical. If each of those groups feels well informed and assured of their safety, they will be able to enjoy the event even more.