Establishing an Event Disaster Plan

How to assess Risks and prepare for disruptions to your meeting

After the fact
 Add any additional details of pertinence to the incident log, along with any summarizing information, and provide this completed log to your client. At the same time provide any relevant backup documentation.

 Review and document lessons learned. Talk to all involved in carrying out the disaster plan, and ask where improvements could be made. From program to program, this is the path to progress.

With severe weather and other disasters occurring more regularly, organizing a foolproof event has become increasingly difficult. As director of event operations, North America, for CWT Meetings & Events, I'd like to present these tips for keeping your attendees safe and secure while minimizing losses of deposits and investments.

 Assess the likelihood of the risk so you can plan for any scale of event. You could be dealing with heavy rain, a hurricane, a tsunami, a power outage or even civil unrest.

 Make sure there are weather clauses in your contract. If you need to cancel, make sure you are not bound or that you can receive credits.

 Learn the ins and outs of your venue and your hotel. Make this knowledge part of your site inspection. Ask for emergency evacuation policies, emergency contact lists and emergency gathering spots.

 Know where off-property emergency facilities  such as hospitals, the fire department, the police department, etc. are located and how long it will take to get there. Determine what the nearest hospital is and what the backup is in case there is an overflow situation.

 Review your emergency plan with your client. Is your plan in line with your client's emergency disaster plan?

 Have more than one contingency plan. If Plan A fails, be prepared with Plan B. If Plan B doesn't work, be prepared with Plan C.

 Do dry runs. Think about different possible scenarios and run through all of your contingency plans.

 Know the emergency contact information for your attendees, including next of kin, or have the ability to access this information via the client database.

 Have an escalation plan. For example, if something happens and you can't reach your key hotel contact, know who to go to next.

 Compile this information in your emergency site booklet.

 Consider setting up a WhatsApp or Skype group for your key event contacts, including the client and hotel contacts. This is a great way to communicate and share information with key event organizers in real time. For attendees, consider using a mobile app and sending alerts through the app.

Consider products that monitor travelers' itineraries (such as CWT's Trip Disruption), which flag the attendees affected by a disruption and proactively reaches out to them to rebook flights, car rentals and hotels.

Know where your attendees are, keeping in mind that not all of them fly to meetings.

 Make sure all travel staff have access to and understand your emergency protocol and procedures before travel and while on-site. They should be aware of your safety and security guidelines and have a clear understanding of how risk-averse your client wants to be.  

 If your event has on-site security personnel, make sure they are prepared to coordinate with the travel staff in an emergency.

 Monitor your contingency plans and make sure your staff is capable of making decisions based on possible consequences. They should be prepared to decide whether to employ Plan A, Plan B or Plan C.

 Don't forget to communicate to the client and attendees when appropriate, so they know what the plans are and are in the loop as any situation develops.

 Immediately log any significant incidents.

 Be calm! If you are calm, your attendees will be too; channel the flight attendant who stays calm while flying through a storm. You've planned for this!