Are you (and your meetings) prepared for a disaster?
Creating a disaster plan can feel like an overwhelming task. If the worst should happen, having a plan already in place can save time, money and perhaps even lives. Here are five simple steps to take you in the right direction.
Create an advisory committee to make critical decisions during an emergency. A senior member of the organization will head an advisory committee and select one designated representative to communicate to the hotel and/or venue. Another person should be chosen to communicate general information and give regular status updates of the situation to delegates. Also, select a suitable candidate to provide delegates with psychological support as needed. An example of an advisory committee could include a CEO, President, Vice President, Meeting Planner, and Executive Director/Project Manager. All members of the advisory committee should have an alternate person designated, in case the first person selected is unavailable.
Create a threat and vulnerability assessment for each meeting. Every city in the world has a threat or vulnerability to some natural or man-made disaster. Determine the threat level prior to booking your event and document the alternatives and criteria for choosing your destination.
Designate operations centers both on- and off-property. It is important to have a designated location, such as a convention office, for meeting attendees, management staff and emergency personnel to reach a person on the advisory committee. It is also important to have an off-property operations center that can take calls and send updates to attendees if the situation becomes too difficult to handle from the meeting site. The ideal location for an off-site operations center is a corporate headquarters or a third-party meeting planner’s headquarters office.
Create a method for communicating with attendees and identifying those in need of psychological assistance. Use email, message boards, room drops and face-to-face meeting locations to address the situation and clearly communicate your action plan. Create a gathering place for delegates to support each other and create activities to focus their attention. Provide grief, stress and anger management counseling as needed.
Develop and implement a method for prevention and response. This is a broad and complicated topic and often the reason many companies put off creating a disaster plan. Remember that the best defense is a good offense. You are obviously not going to be able to prevent a hurricane; earthquake or transportation strike. However, you can take precautions on areas such as fire safety, crowd control and security. Make sure your Force Majeure (Acts of God) Clause protects you and that you have a plan in place to respond in a timely and effective manner.