Disasters, risk, and planning events

Disasters, risk, and planning eventsAs I write this, I’m saddened by all the disasters that have happened in the last couple of weeks, just in North America:

  • Flooding in Calgary and other parts of Alberta. Kudos to Calgary for going ahead with the Stampede as best it can.
  • Lac-Megantic, Quebec where a horrific unmanned train with flammable contents exploded in the small town and crashed into the Musi-Café. As I write this, there are still many people missing, including several employees of the Musi-Café.
  • San Francisco airport crash on landing by a plane flown by a pilot who had never landed this type of plane before and with only 40 hours of flying time of this plane. A teenager has died – it seems as she was run over by a fire truck on its way to the plane as she was running from the plane.

All so tragic, yet disasters like these are becoming more and more commonplace – to say nothing of the disasters and political unrest in other parts of the world. Many issues are swirling around us as planners plan their meetings and worry about the strategic objectives and the follow-through of all the logistics and suppliers who in turn worry about giving the best service and product so they can have repeat business. And what of the sales people selling their destinations and venues? Imagine trying to sell Egypt or Turkey for an incentive program right now.

What’s a sales person to do? Be honest and transparent. If there are safety issues, tell the planner how your destination/venue manages the risk. What emergency plans are in place?  What if the building has to be evacuated? What if there are political issues? The world is very small today, and a good planner stays in step globally and locally.

Vendors, again, it is about honesty and transparency.  If, as happened in Calgary, you can’t get the AV equipment up and ready because roads are closed and you honestly don’t know when they will re-open, then tell the planner what your backup plan is. It is likely the planner may not be able to get all the attendees or speakers to the event as well. Work together.

Planners, do the best you can to think of all the ‘what if’s” before your conference/event, and have plans in place. Since September 11, 2001, planners have become much more attuned to thinking about this. Don’t let your guard down, and remember, there are things you cannot foresee. When they happen, work with your partners to do the best you can. Have a risk management plan to deal with what you can foresee, and that will enable you to keep your head when the unforeseeable happens.

Hats off to Allstream Centre. Recently, CanSPEP did an event there and on the table, for the co-ordinator, was a simple, one-page memo that indicated who to contact and outlining what to do in case of emergency and evacuation. Every event gets this sheet.

My thoughts go out to all those affected by recent disasters all around the globe. We are all in this together.

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