Emergency Preparedness – When “What If” Happens

A meeting planner’s top priority are their attendees. From transportation to lodging to entertainment. But a meeting planner must expect the unexpected, too. Now planners must make security during an event a top concern. While no one can plan for every contingency at a meeting, a careful analysis of your event will help determine the priority for security and risk management during any program.

An emergency can happen anywhere, anytime. Our destinations and lives can change in an instant. Because of the nature of business events – we’re responsible, in some way, for thousands of people every year.

In order to be effective, companies must be able to efficiently and effectively evaluate potential sensitivities across employees, clients, participants, vendors, and other key stakeholders to ensure that the organization is being responsive to concerns.

While it is not possible to know in advance when a crisis will occur or what form it will take, it is important to have a response framework in place to navigate a complex situation.

There is an increased importance for meeting planners to expect the unexpected when it comes to risk mitigation and emergency preparedness. Disasters, whether they be natural, accidental or intentional, can be traumatic for all involved. And as best we try, we may never be completely prepared for what may occur.

In an emergency, savvy local partners are a planner’s best resource when a program is underway. As destination experts have shown, time and again, the connections that local suppliers bring to the table are invaluable. When emergencies happen during a program, the best partner a meeting planner has is the team of dedicated suppliers managing the event.

When it comes to rallying unexpected support from local suppliers such as hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, caterers, and smaller entertainment venues, a destination management company is a vital part in the meeting planner’s resources. Running a program with PRA is like buying the additional insurance on a new appliance. It’s a guarantee that every aspect of the program will have the right level of experience, emergency preparedness plans will be in place, external factors that may influence the program will be managed, and informed and frequent communication will occur throughout the program.

Below are important steps we take to ensure we are prepared when an emergency occurs:

Preparedness – Before a Crisis Happens, The Best Tool is Preparedness

Each PRA office has an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) in place to address any level of disaster or service interruption that may arise prior to or during program operation. This plan is designed specifically to ensure the highest level of safety, comfort and care of our clients, their guests, our supplier partners and our employees.

Emergency Occurs Before the Program

We alert team members if an emergency occurs. We need to quickly make the decisions on what action is taken due to an emergency: evaluate the criteria, identify communication methods, and contact city agencies to get an assessment of the damage and impact.

Next, we work closely with our clients to communicate information and make decisions regarding the impact to their programs.

Emergency During Program

Management – The response to the unexpected sets the tone for the group and the situation. We immediately assign a point person and key members of the emergency management team to spearhead leadership and decision-making authority. We also set up a command center, whether onsite at the hotel where program is operating or another designated space to act as the central point of command.

Communicate – While we may not have answers or solutions to every question or issue during the initial moment of the event, PRA commits to regular updates to our client, their attendees and other stakeholders to reassure everyone that we are managing the situation and working quickly on solutions. Immediate and constant communication during such an event is one of the most crucial elements of a successful plan.

Compassion – People may be hurt, hopes and expectations shattered, livelihoods threatened, lives and property lost. But at the end of the day, we’re a business about people. During an emergency, it is the people that matter most.

Next steps– Working with our clients, we make decisions on what action is taken due to the emergency. Evaluate the following and determine communication methods:

  • Safety – is it safe to begin/continue the meeting?
  • Communication modes available
  • Status of all program facilities
  • Transportation available
  • Evacuation of area
  • Determine course of action and communicate

Ongoing communication – We communicate major decisions to all staff, attendees and suppliers. We also keep an open line of communication for ongoing decision making. Depending on the severity of the emergency, we arrange for other assistive services or counseling.

After an Emergency

Follow-up – It is PRA’s job to ensure all people impacted – clients, guests, employees, etc. – are in a safe and stable situation. Determine if ongoing support or assistance for any of them is needed. Thoroughly document the emergency, what happened, the people impacted, the response and outcome.

Communication – Just as communication is key during an emergency, follow-up communication is equally important. How has the issue been resolved? What lessons have been learned to prevent a recurrence or to respond even better? If anyone affected has outstanding issues, who should they contact?

While safety and security should always be the first priority in any crisis situation, communications are a critical component of an effective crisis response. The perceptions of stakeholders will largely be shaped and driven by how a company responds. Properly managed, these perceptions can help companies quickly recover reputations following a crisis. If not managed properly, these perceptions can quickly begin to define not only the crisis at hand, but the company itself.

PRA Is Prepared

We have years of experience as a business event management firm and have come across our fair share of emergency situations that require advanced expertise and prepared skill sets.

From blizzards and ice-storms that have crippled cities during program operations, to volcanic eruptions which temporarily halted travel, to terrorist attacks at home and abroad, we’ve dealt with these emergency situations on a very personal level—it has always been our main concern that those affected have PRA by their side.

PRA’s multitude of processes – from response plans and staff and guide training, to checklists and our local contacts – allow us to be well-prepared to handle emergency situations. By its very nature, an emergency is unexpected; but with PRA, our years of experience have prepared us for every type of emergency.

It is important to have a trusted partner who is well-equipped to handle these types of incidents. To learn more about PRA’s emergency preparedness plans, contact us or reach out to any of our destinations. We’re here to help.

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