Marty MacKay, DMCP, is president, Hosts Global’s Alliance of DMCs. Marty has spent her entire career mastering the event world. Her professional background began on the client side, where she learned the event business from the ground up while working at a leading fortune 500 company. Since joining Hosts Global in 2013, she has more than doubled the size of the Alliance and introduced best practices and standards across the membership. Marty is the president of ADMEI and leader in the hospitality industry’s focus to drive emergency preparedness. www.hosts-global.com
No one is exempt from a disaster. They can happen anywhere, to anyone. Now more than ever, meeting planners are asking (and if they are not, they should be) their supplier partners about emergency preparedness. As your worldwide Destination Management Company (DMC), our team at Hosts Global brings to the forefront the need for this conversation between planners and DMCs far before programs occur. It is critical to address this topic in the early stages of planning a meeting, convention, incentive program or special event and with all parties involved to ensure clients are safe and all teams are prepared for various types of emergencies. We cannot say it enough. A communication plan is key in a crisis.
It is extremely difficult to plan for the unknown. However, the danger of being unprepared for a potential crisis is an even greater risk for your meeting or event. These dangers include inadequately training your staff and not having a clear communication plan should an emergency occur. During a crisis, you must be prepared to make swift decisions in order to protect the safety of your guests and your teams. You empower your staff with the knowledge and authority to make these critical safety calls through advanced preparation.
To initiate your preparedness plan, we have found it beneficial to consider the following high-level goals and protective measures:
Some basic protective actions are similar across many different hazards:
Our team at Hosts Global believes in being proactive, and that extends to being prepared for various emergency situations that may arise. To do so, we’ve created an emergency action plan template, to ensure we can help keep our people and our clients safe, while protecting our business. We have made this template available for our DMCs across our 300+ destinations along with checklists and helpful information for them to create an emergency communication plan that reflects their destination’s needs. Although we all face the same accidental and terrorist hazards, not every location faces the same natural disaster threats. When working with your local DMC we recommend gaining their expert advice on local threats and focusing on communication as the first step. In my opinion, the most critical communications document you can create is a one-page, high-level event overview. When the unthinkable happens, it is essential to have important facts when time is limited. This overview, at a minimum, should include information about your key decision-makers and their agreed upon triggers for action. This way, you don’t second guess yourself under pressure. An example of a situation where this document might be useful could be an outdoor event where weather might be a risk. In advance of the event, key decision-makers should decide what the trigger(s) will be for cancelling the event due to inclement weather. That way, during the event when emotions are high and there might be a tendency to push the envelope because you don’t want to cancel, you already have an agreed upon, reasonable risk threshold set when emotions were calm and collected.
Last year, as the president-elect of the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI), I had the opportunity to collaborate with fellow destination management executives and MSA Security, a global security firm, to develop the “Emergency Preparedness Certificate Program.” MSA was critical for establishing essential course criteria as well as creating planning checklists so course participants can depart with tangible templates to utilize. After completing our first certificate program, we quickly realized the need to bring in legal counsel to answer many questions, so we now partner with the seasoned team at Barnes & Thornburg LLP as well. The course has been very successful. To date, it is the only comprehensive event emergency preparedness and risk management certificate course customized for meeting, event and DMC professionals.
I encourage you to learn more about this specialized training opportunity. For details regarding the certificate program and upcoming training event, please visit: www.adme.org/aws/ADME/pt/sp/emergency.
I’ve participated in a number of emergency preparedness seminars. A common theme in each training is the difficulty of knowing how you will respond in the time of crisis. My continued takeaway is that the more scenarios you can envision and discuss, however unpleasant, the more likely you are to make good decisions should you find yourself in one of those situations. Please remember, this type of scenario training should not just include immediate staff, but all field staff and partners who are essential to the successful execution of your event. I’ll close with a helpful tip: in the months leading up to your event, take time to talk through one scenario a week in your team planning meetings. Encourage each team member take a turn walking through a scenario and then openly discuss as a group. Everyone will provide different points of view and their diverse feedback will ultimately make your preparedness plan complete. C&IT