By Susan Goldberg, SEGue Consulting Inc.
It has been more than eight years since the 9/11 attacks and those of us in the security and conference planning fields are seeing a return to complacency. In today's challenging economic climate, the pressure for meeting professionals to deliver dynamic, high-impact events with increasingly smaller budgets often appears to be in direct conflict with the responsibility planners have in making security and disaster planning a fundamental component of the planning process.
Event Professionals are faced not only with managing a diverse array of potential risks but also with managing them with significantly less resources. Effective safety and security planning is no longer simply a consideration but a fundamental responsibility of any meeting planner or association. Since September 11th, the meeting planning industry continues to assemble value-based security tools and solutions that effectively balance risk, productivity, and costs.
I recommend these basic steps meeting planners need to take into consideration when planning for a safe meeting in order to avoid dangerous consequences that could compromise the safety and security of attendees and events.
WHY – WHAT – WHEN – WHERE – HOW
WHY DO YOU NEED A COMPREHENSIVE EMERGENCY PLAN?
Disasters are devastating and not predictable. Therefore, planning for them is essential. A whole range of emergencies can occur, so it is best to always document what procedures to follow in case of an emergency.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
Create a disaster preparedness plan which addresses:
- Identification of relocation sites
- Communication plans (institute a phone tree)
- Assignment of responsibilities
- Access to information
- Purchase of interruption insurance
- Security of data
WHEN DO YOU NEED TO PUT THIS PLAN IN PLACE?
- At the beginning of the planning phase
- Practice makes perfect
- Assign an emergency point person and deputy
- Have drills and make sure plan is up-to-date annually
WHERE DO YOU IMPLEMENT?
- Before – During – After
- Preparation before your event
- Bringing together the on-site team during the event
- Post meeting evaluation to see how effective the plan was after the event
HOW – PREPARE A SECURITY PLANNING CHECKLIST.
- Security should be an integral part of the event planning process
- Planners must take a proactive role in ensuring the safety of their meetings and their attendees
- Be alert to current events both locally and internationally
- Be aware of the worldview and demographics of the attendee and how that impacts their risk level
- Maintain a concise emergency plan and have increased caution if meeting elements (e.g., attendees) are higher risk
- Assess the risk factors at your meeting destinations, venues and facilities
- Evaluate facilities' security procedures and abilities to secure your particular event
- Consider lower profile venues and destination in the planning process to minimize risk
- Make safety and the welfare of your attendees a priority when planning for your events
- Familiarize yourself with the cancellation options in all your vendor contracts
- Purchase cancellation insurance and be aware of your coverage policies
- Make sure your travel and event policies and procedures are up to date and relevant to the current post 9/11 world we live in
- Develop contingency plans taking into consideration multiple scenarios and options and integrate them into your event planning
- Make sure to brief your staff and venue on your security procedures to insure that they are aware of their role and responsibilities in the event that they might be implemented
- Reduce exposure by maintaining a low profile in the event of a high profile event
- Use discretion when promoting your event
- If you feel your meeting presents a soft target, turn it into a hard target
- Implement security plans that will deter the bad guys from targeting your meeting
- Establish a good and early relationship with facility in-house security and local law enforcement officials
- Use only professional and reputable security companies
- Contract outside security vendors and/or local law enforcement agencies if you feel you need assistance securing your event to your satisfaction
THE PLAN INCLUDES
- Develop a relationship with critical local resources: Police, fire department, hospitals, electric company, airports, airlines and charter airline companies, rental car agencies, travel agencies, bus companies, banks, and disaster relief agencies
- Maintain attendee lists including hotel room and cell phone or contact numbers
- Provide attendees with useful security information (health, cultural customs and guidelines) customized to the destination
- Brief staff on security and contingency plans
- Establish a point of contact (POC) to avoid confusion
It is not acceptable for planners to take a “see nothing…do nothing approach” when executing their jobs. In fact, all meeting planners have a legal responsibility to provide a “Duty of Care” which requires that the responsible party (in this case the Meeting Planner) exercises a reasonable standard of care while performing any acts that could possibly harm others. In other words, planners have a legal responsibility to anticipate the potential risks to meetings and prepare contingency solutions in order to mitigate these risks.
In future issues, I will discuss specific security and emergency management steps planners need to take into consideration when organizing meetings, the importance of partnering with security professionals, the dollars and sense of security, do it yourself risk assessment tools and how to sell security planning to your leaders in this challenging economic environment.
Meeting planners are inherently risk managers. Having a security and emergency management plan in place will not only increase your visibility as a professional but also insures a maximum level of safety for your event and attendees. Additionally, you can demonstrate that proper security planning will have a positive return on investment to the overall success of your event.